Need to Smash The Idols - Gilad Shalit

Our country waits with baited breath for Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas captivity after five years of unimaginable horror. The immense joy of his freedom, the end of his and his family's dire tribulations, will be felt by every Israeli and every Jew.
The ransom payment for Gilad Shalit's release, however, can only be described as nauseating.

Of course, Israel has a long history of agreeing to exchange vastly more prisoners, than Israel receives in return.

Over the last 30 years, Israel has released about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others.

The decisive precedent was sent in 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon. Then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin defended the deal. "When no military option exists," he said, "there is no choice but to enter negotiations and pay a price."

Other gigantic 'exchanges' (read "ransom payments") included a prisoner swap which was carried out on 29 January 2004: in exchange for Israeli businessman and former army colonel Elchanan Tenenbaum abducted in 2000 in Kuwait, and the remains of the three IDF soldiers. Israel released 30 Lebanese and 400 Palestinian prisoners, handed over the remains of 59 Lebanese militants and civilians, and maps showing Israeli mines in South Lebanon.

On July 16, 2008, Hezbollah transferred the coffins of two captured Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in exchange for incarcerated Palestine Liberation Front militant and convicted murderer Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah militants, and about 200 other Lebanese and Palestinian militants captured by Israel.

Beyond the numbers, the sickening part of the story is the vile and savage criminality of many of the prisoners being released for Shalit.

They include the woman who lured an Israeli boy into an Arab village, via an internet courtship, and then she set loose murderers on the boy to ruthlessly slaughter him.

And another woman to be released is Ahlam Tamimi. She drove the suicide bomber and apparently had a lead role in organizing the attack on Sbarro pizza restaurant in the middle of Jerusalem, which left 15 Israelis dead, and over 150 injured.

The dead included five members of the Schijveschuurder family.

A surviving member of that family is reported to have been responsible for the defacing last week of the Yitzhak Rabin Gravesite. (Misreported by the media as a "Price Tag Attack"). Such an act of vandalism, is an expression of total despair and outrage at the prisoner release, from the surviving Schijveschuurder sibling. 
There are literally hundreds of these vile terrorist rodents now due for release.

There are numerous good reasons not to release them:

  1. The payment of huge ransoms encourages terror organizations to seek out tomorrow's hostages.
  2. Many of these terrorists will be active in the future. Even the enormous value of saving one life, is not worth the price of dozens, even hundreds of future Jewish lives. According to Amgor (the terror victims organization) "released terrorists who served time during 1993–1999 have been responsible for at least thirty attacks on Israelis after being released".
  3. The capture of these terrorists required IDF soldiers to risk their lives, and even cost soldiers lives. It is a stain on these soldiers' sacrifices and willingness to sacrifice, when the terrorists they successfully captured, are released before their time. The motivation for soldiers to undertake such operations in the future is severely compromised.
  4. The whole justice system is undermined, when multiple murderers, captured, found guilty, sentenced, are then released considerably early, due to extraneous factors (ransom payment).
  5. The early release of terrorists is a double trauma for their victims and their families. It is a second stage of violation and abuse.
  6. The terrorists themselves know when they are captured, they are likely to be released in such a ransom payment. The threat of a life sentence in Israeli prison has become hollow and provides minimal deterrence to terrorists.
A few years ago, there were reports that Meir Shamgar had been appointed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak to head up a committee to set guidelines for the acceptable scope of prisoner exchanges and ransom payments.

The results of that committee's findings were never published. Apparently these recommendations were deliberately withheld due to the Shalit negotiations.

I am in the fortunate position of neither being prime minister, nor on the Shamgar committee. These are heavy decisions – "heavy lies the head which wears the crown".

And beyond the awesome responsibility of these positions, I do not have any privileged information about other behind-the-scenes-factors which may have made this particular deal imperative, which those who took this decision presumably have. 

In my very humble opinion, the rule book does need to be re-written, and with immediate effect.

The past idols need to be smashed.

I propose some steps which I suggest can reduce the phenomena of terrorists holding Israeli citizens as hostage, and which could address some of the problems listed above.

  1. One for one. A new standard should be declared. One for one. The negotiations will be for which prisoner gets released – not how many. Almost certainly the big-shots, such as Barghouti. Israel could even target capturing such big-shots, for such exchanges, as we did by capturing Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dhirani (with Ron Arad in mind), in Lebanon. 
  2. Different Rules for Repeat Offenders: Terrorists prisoners released will receive automatically severe sentences for future involvement in terror. Whereas they may have received ten years – life. Whereas they may have received life, death. Whereas they may have been taken alive, they will be assassinated.
  3. Introduction of the Death Sentence: for murdering terrorists, where this is proven beyond doubt, the death penalty can be introduced. Dead terrorists cannot be released early and the deterrence to others is clear.
These or similar principles should be passed into legislation as soon as possible, before another Israeli is held to ransom, and the Israeli passions again overwhelm rationality. 

While my heart yearns for Gilad's release this week Be"H, yet my stomach is sickened by the costs to our nation.


  1. I cannot blame the Shalit family for trying to make Gilad's release the main issue. I can blame the government for giving in and forgetting the needs of the rest of the country including those of other victims.

  2. I sincerely hope that all who feel as David does, will join the families of victims of terror , marching with white flags from Har Herzl to the Pm's office, Monday of Hol HaMoed at 10:30am.
    While we'd all rather have fun on Hol HaMoed, this is the least we can do to show the victims' families that SOMEONE cares, and possibly to put pressure on the government, if not for this deal, than for the one that will surely come up soon as a result....

  3. David,

    I agree with your article, but note one correction necessary. Samir Kuntar was captured while carrying out a terrorist attack; he was not captured in order to exchange for a prisoner. Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dhirani, Lebanese Hezbollah leaders, were captured for the specific purpose of exchanging for Ron Arad.

  4. Hi Anonymous - many thanks for correcting that important detail.

    I've changed that sentence accordingly!

  5. Why Gilad looked so ill at his interview, which served Hamas's purposes:


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