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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gilad Shalit and Ingrid Betancourt

I blogged once before about the parallels between Israel's battle with the 'Palestinians' and Colombia's battle with the FARC terrorist organization. With former Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt released from FARC captivity last week, Caroline Glick devoted her Friday column to a discussion of how Israel goes about trading for its hostages and how Colombia went about releasing them.
In March, Uribe risked regional war to defeat FARC by raiding a FARC base on the Ecuadorian side of the border. The raid was immensely successful. FARC's deputy commander Raul Reyes was killed and his computers - carrying massive intelligence information - were seized.

As Ecuador cut off diplomatic relations and Chavez deployed troops to his border with Colombia, Uribe stalwartly defended the raid. He defended the operation even as the French government attacked him, claiming that Reyes had been their negotiating partner in their quest to secure Betancourt's release.

Israel's governments have systematically prevented the publication of information regarding Fatah's leadership role in the terror war, and its ties to Iran and Syria. They have also refused to take any action against Israeli organizations and politicians bankrolled illegally by foreign governments. In contrast, Uribe moved quickly to use the information exposed by Reyes's computers to discredit Chavez, FARC and their Colombian and foreign sympathizers.

Reyes's files showed that neither FARC nor Chavez nor pro-Chavez Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba were negotiating Betancourt's release in good faith. Understanding that she was their most powerful bargaining chip against the Uribe government, in their internal discussions, all three attested to their opposition to her release. Uribe's release of the information decreased French pressure for a deal. Chavez was further discredited and Bogota's prosecutor opened a criminal probe against Cordoba on treason-related charges.

According to media reports, the Ecuador raid also provided the Colombian military with actionable intelligence it needed to move forward with its plans for last week's rescue mission. That is, each successful raid paved the way for the next achievement.

THE ISRAELI media's response to the Colombia rescue mission has been to inflate the "Israeli role" in the mission. Numerous reports have been published in the local press about the fact that the Colombians hired retired IDF generals Yisrael Ziv and Yossi Kupperwasser to help them build up their counterterror capabilities.

Far from obscuring the yawning gap between Colombia and Israel, these reports bring Israel's abandonment of the fight into sharp relief. They show clearly that Israel's decision to capitulate has nothing to do with an inability to fight to victory. It is a failure of will rather than a failure of capacity that has brought Israel to its current cowed and humiliated condition where its media argues over how many terrorists should be exchanged for Schalit and ignores completely the very notion that he can be rescued.

And Israel could attempt to rescue him. While success is never assured, it is a fact that just as Colombia was able to find and rescue Betancourt and her fellow hostages in the jungle, so Israel could, if it dared, conduct a competent operation aimed at rescuing Schalit in Gaza. Like Colombia it could acquire the intelligence necessary to plan and carry out such a raid. Like Colombia, its forces are competent to succeed in such an endeavor.

Until last week's raid, one of the main sources of pressure on the Uribe government was Betancourt's family. Her mother and children met frequently with Chavez and railed against Uribe in their eagerness to see her released.

Speaking of her experience and of her rescue in Paris this week, Betancourt, who over the years tried to escape five times, was clear that she preferred freedom to slavery, even if it came only in death. As French philosopher Andre Glucksmann wrote in City Journal, it was freedom, not life, that she held most sacred. And while she understood her family's actions, she clearly did not embrace their pacifism as she praised Uribe for rescuing her despite the risk that the mission would fail and she and her fellow hostages would be killed.

It is hard to imagine that as a soldier, Schalit feels any differently. Why should we assume that he prefers to live as a slave rather than to die in a quest for freedom?
Read the whole thing.

I wonder what would happen if IDF commandos killed Ismail Haniyeh and/or Mahmoud Zahar and got a hold of their computers. Does anyone doubt that we would find equally valuable information about Shalit to that found by the Colombian government about Betancourt?

The extent to which Israeli government policy in the Gaza Strip has been taken over by concern for Shalit's well-being cannot be understated. In an article that discussed the possible development of a 'government policy' on negotiating for hostages, Yaakov Katz describes how concern for Shalit is dictating Israeli government policy:
While some have praised the [Goldwasser-Regev terrorists for corpses. CiJ] deal as a demonstration of the country's commitment to its soldiers, others such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak have indicated that the country can no longer essentially be held captive - in its policies and operations - to its kidnapped soldiers. [The question here is that if Barak feels this way, why did he raise his hand in favor of the terrorists for corpses trade? I guess expecting any Israeli minister to have the courage of his convictions is too much these days. CiJ]

Take the case of Gilad Schalit. Since he was kidnapped just over two years ago, every move Israel has made vis-à-vis the Palestinians and particularly the Gaza Strip has been dictated by concern for his welfare.

"Before every operation we had to ask ourselves what would happen to Schalit and before every political concession we had to ask how it would affect Schalit," explained one senior official.

For these reasons Barak this week set up a special team to study the issue of future prisoner exchanges, to be chaired by Israel Prize-winning ethicist Asa Kasher and include former Supreme Court justice Meir Shamgar and former Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron.

The committee's primary job will be to formulate a policy according to which the country will henceforth operate in the case of a kidnapped soldier. One senior member of the IDF General Staff told The Jerusalem Post this week that he envied the United States, which does not negotiate with terrorists - a policy that has in recent years brought about a dramatic drop in the number of kidnappings of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those of us who are over 50 remember when Israel had a policy of not negotiating with terrorists either. In fact, Israel was the pre-eminent practitioner of that policy (believe it or not) as was illustrated by the spectacular Entebbe raid thirty-two years ago last week. It might take a while for it to be believable, but Israel must go back to that policy. Too bad the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government would never have the guts to do it.


At 11:48 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The current government seeks the easy way out because it calculates correctly, it won't have public backing for taking a hard line towards terrorists. In fact, the irony is the public would support a government refusal to release terrorists if it explained such a refusal is necessary to the country's well-being. The hostages' families would even support it if that was explained to them. But we will never really know now since Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai decided national humiliation is far more preferable than upholding the country's self-respect. That's where matters stand at this point in time.


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