Sunday, March 15, 2009

Willfull Blindness

Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy is too radical-left "Israeli=Bad and Palestinian=Good" for my taste. So I was surprised when I clicked on one of his articles today. I fully expected to hate it and him; instead I found myself actually nodding and agreeing with the man.

Only one banner needs to be raised reading "release 1,000 terrorists." That banner shouldn't be put up outside the Prime Minister's Residence but outside the Hadarim Prison where Palestinian prisoners are held. How many of the thousands of activists who support Shalit's release are willing to do that? Just like other crucial matters like, say, peace, we are all in favor - but at what price? That's another matter. Let's not get into it. It's enough to say we favor a two-state solution. When exactly? Why not now? What about the Jewish settlements in the West Bank? Let's not quarrel over trifles and spoil everything.

As is their wont, Israelis demand to fly business class but pay with bonus points. Peace for peace, Shalit for Shalit. They want to have their cake and eat it too; for Shalit to be released without releasing Palestinians. The media fan the flames, crying that the prisoners have "blood on their hands;" politicians preach that we should stay quiet "lest the price rises." But the price has not risen or fallen, nor will it fall in the future. But how many of Shalit's supporters even debate that issue?

In respect to Gilad Shalit, I have had mixed feelings about the "bring him home" campaign for some time. In respect to Levy's take on the Israeli mentality, I have noted and despaired of such tendencies myself. For example, there is the oh-so-popular school of thought that goes something like this:

1) Israel gets to keep all of the 1967 territories.
2) Arabs living in the 1967 territories do not receive citizenship or the right to vote.
3) Said Arabs are expected to act like good, happy Arabs and accept this situation forever and ever.

Hello! Are you freaking insane? Would you accept this? I do not believe in violence and certainly cannot see myself ever becoming a suicide bomber, but you can damn well believe I would be engaged in some serious non-violent protests against such treatment.

Everything has a price.

Maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel has its price: giving up land in exchange for the Palestinians being the citizens of some other country. Maintaining control over the West Bank has its price: the sacrifice of a Jewish state in favor of a bi-national one as the current situation in which we get land and the Arabs get squat being untenable in the long run. (Hell, it is not particularly tenable in the short run; a situation maintained only through the exertion of force is not what one would call "stable"). I am also not a huge fan of Avigdor Lieberman (too radical-right, rather fascist etc) but based on his pet proposal to redraw borders to leave the Jewish populations in the Jewish State and the Arab populations in the Palestinian State (ie. giving up control of land) I do have to admit that he seems to understand this concept.

Getting Gilad back has a price: the release of terrorists. And yes, keeping the terrorists in prison has its own price: not getting back Gilad. It is possible to argue that we could send in commandos to rescue him. But that also has a potential price, in the form of dead soldiers. How many dead soldiers is one live one worth, when all of the soldiers are from our side? Take, for instance A Soldier's Mother. She has a son in the Army. Would she consider her son being killed or injured a reasonable price to pay in order to get Gilad home?

This is not a mean question. It is a real one. It is a question that needs to be asked, and answered.

There is a price for anything and everything we might wish for ourselves and for our country. We know, or we should know, what that price is. The only question is whether we are willing to pay it. And once we know, are we brave enough to own our beliefs, to stand up and say that price aloud.

So, am I willing to trade terrorists, and the lives of their future victims, for Shalit? If the roles were reversed, if I were the one in captivity, would the price be reasonable? No. I am sorry. But, no.


e.e. said...

Wow, Gila
I just wish that I could be that sure.
As you write, these are the options:
1. Send in soldiers to release Shalit. Entebbe hero-rescue dreaming is popular no more. Since the failure and 3 deaths caused in the would-be Nachshon Wachsman release, most Israelis wouldn't want to take the chance. So that leaves us with 2 & 3.
2. Release heinous terrorists in exchange for Shalit. Result: we get Gilad back, but they will surely strike again, it's just a matter of time. The enemy learns they can extort – more soldiers at risk of being kidnapped.
3. Refuse the demands, no exchange agreement: leave the Shalit family to their fate, get another Ron Arad situation. Result: make a mockery of the promise "Teda kol em evriya…" in the recruiting base. The army will not do everything to watch over your sons, mothers, so think twice before sending them. This was one of the mainstays of the army in the past, greatly affecting the soldiers' motivation – which is not too hot in the last generation if you've noticed, with many eligible youngsters choosing to opt out.(See

So how does 2 weigh against 3?

Hell, Gila, I wish I knew.

Jack said...

Hard questions do not always have easy answers. Whatever happens it will be painful.

Gila said...

I think it is fair to say that if I had kids, and especially kids in the army, it would be far less easy for me to be so sure. Really, all I have at risk is me.

Ahuva said...

Gila, I thought the problem was that the price kept changing.

Israel withdrew from Gaza for what? More rockets.

What about the 2000 Camp David summit where, if my understanding is correct, Arafat was offered everything except Jerusalem and the "right of return" for people who had never even set foot in Israel.

What about all the goodwill gestures of releasing militants in exchange for.... more rockets.

It's not as one-sided as your post makes it sound.

Yehudit said...

OK Gila you're in for it now. :-)

What everyone else said, also ...

Israel has released many Palestinian terrorists (always way more than the 1-5 guys they want back - I mean 1000? isn't that chutzpa?) over the years and has always gotten bupkis. Either a few dead bodies or no change in whatever the prisoner release was supposed to accomplish. if this was the first or even the 10th time anyone thought of it, maybe. At this point it falls under the category of doing the same thing in the hopes you will get a different result. Like just about everything Israel does unfortunately. (Like I said, what everyone else said ...)

ellie lavi said...

ושבו בנים לגבולם
As difficult as the decision is you bring him home..
You realize what an amazing place this is... A family sitting in a tent on one of the wealthiest streets in Jerusalem, if not in Israel... people regular people, politicains, rabbis coming to visit as thought were friends or chalila making a shiva call.
To a family they would otherwise never have any contact with..because we all can identify
because it could be our family...
because Israel, with all its problems and there are many is STILL one big family
And you take care of your own.
No matter what....

RivkA with a capital A said...

Why make things so complicated.

It is very simple, until the release of GS:
1. no negotiations
2. borders hermetically sealed
3. cut off water, electricity, gas, and whatever other utilities we provide

the math is simple, make it not worth it for them to keep him

and demand, every day, that someone from the International Red Cross be given access to see him, as is mandated by international law (though no one seems particularly bothered by human rights abuses when the humans being abused are Jews....)

Mo-ha-med said...

Above comment is so hateful and disturbing I don't know how to respond. I really hope she's not representative of the Israeli mainstream.. is she?

Gila, I understand the dilemma you pose. But know that those 1000 'terrorists' are for the vast majority non-criminals. They have not had access to a fair trial, many are minors, many have been held for a long time.
And there are 11,000 other Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
The contentious prisoners - those guilty of crimes against civilians - are actually very few.

I wrote about the fallacy of the argument of 'raising the cost it becomes untenable for them to keep him' a little while back. (pardon the self-linking here, G!:) And I'll add that it leads people to behave like gamblers in a casino: the more they lose people (around 220 in march 08.. 1300 in dec/jan.. how many because of the blockade?) the more they will want to 'recoup' their losses.

All prisoners who have not been convicted of crime should be released. And that includes GS, as well as the Palestinians.
Those who have should receive fair trials.

Anonymous said...

Gila, I enjoy your "politics-free" blog. I prefer when you keep it that way.

But since you mentioned a 3-point "freaking insane" argument for holding on to the territories, I'd ask you to consider this counter-argument:

a) Arabs get to attack Israel, and lose land in the process
b) Arabs get it all back (97%, if we're tough) in exchange for nothing. Israel, of course, forfeits its own historical claims to the land.
c) Said Arabs are expected to ignore the logical conclusion: attacking Israel is risk-free.

Sounds much more insane to me.