Monday, October 24, 2011

Was the Gilad Shalit Exchange too Expensive?

By Tom Kando

On October 18, the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas, after more than 5 years of captivity, in exchange for 477 and eventually 1027 Palestinian prisoners. The young man’s return home was accompanied by great national celebration. There is much rejoicing. I share the joy, and I want to see this in a positive light.

The government of Israel has pledged to its people, whose children must ALL serve in the military, that it will do “EVERYTHING” to secure their freedom in such cases.

The Netanyahu administration is proud to have succeeded in this exchange, where its predecessors failed. However, here are some things to consider:

Can there be such a vow of “doing everything”? What is “everything”? Next time, does Israel hand over half the country for the release of Israeli prisoners? Maybe you’ll say, “well, they meant ‘everything within reason’.”

And that is precisely my question: Was the exchange of ONE prisoner for 1,027 prisoners reasonable? A certain proportion of the released Palestinian prisoners are mass murderers. Releasing dozens of such people may result in future deaths of innocents, as more cafés and schools in Tel Aviv and Haifa get bombed (and more Palestinians are killed in reprisal). Several of the released Palestinian terrorists/freedom fighters have already vowed that they will resume their attacks.

Naturally, to the Palestinians, these released prisoners are not mass murderers. They are freedom fighters. Some participants in a Dutch opinion poll put it this way: “compared to 60 years of Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians, Gilad Shalit’s 5 years of incarceration were meager punishment.” Besides, there are still 5,000 (some say 10,000) Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

On the other hand, much of Israeli public opinion feels that this was a pretty expensive exchange.

That’s how it feels to me, too. Does this deal reflect the bargaining skills of Hamas and of the Israeli government? If so, Israel is in big trouble.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that Gilad Shalit should have been abandoned. And don’t come at me with the cliché, “what if it were YOU (or your own child)?” This is the non-sequitur argument I heard from many of my students whenever we discussed issues like euthanasia and capital punishment. All I am focusing on now is: 1 vs. 1027, and I think, “wow!”

It would be nice if this prisoner exchange gave Israel at least a MORAL victory. Perhaps world public opinion could say, “They did that? Gave up 1027 prisoners for ONE of their sons! That’s very, very nice of them!” Sort of a sympathy vote.

Don’t hold your breath.leave comment here