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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Wednesday's 'exchange' means

What was precedent-setting about Wednesday's 'terrorists for corpses' exchange was not so much that Israel released live terrorists for dead bodies. Israel has done that before, although this is the first time that no live bodies were included in an 'exchange.' The key to this 'exchange' was the release of Samir al-Kuntar, and it's why Hezbullah agreed to make the 'exchange' with 'only' five live terrorists rather than the hundreds that are - unfortunately - normally included in these kinds of deals. Kuntar's release decimated Israel's claim that it will not release terrorists with 'blood on their hands.' With all the talk over the last several months of the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government trying to change the definition to allow an exchange to be made for Gilad Shalit (pictured), changing the definition is likely no longer relevant. There are very few 'Palestinians' in Israel's jails who committed crimes as heinous as Kuntar's. With Kuntar's release, it's no longer a question of the definition of 'blood on their hands.' The entire term may no longer be relevant. That change was not lost on Fatah or Hamas.
"Israel must pay the price, and learn to pay the price for an exchange," said [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh, referring to kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. "There is a captive Israeli soldier. Thousands of our sons are in prison. We want to end this as quickly, even faster than, the Israelis, but let them meet our demands," Haniyeh said.
In Israel, not surprisingly, there has been a backlash against the exchange.
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) condemned the release of Kuntar and the other terrorists, calling it a "tragic".

"This is a tragic end for the families [of the soldiers], and it is also a very bad end for Israel's fight against terrorism," said Steinitz in a Tuesday morning Channel 2 interview. "The celebrations of the terrorist organizations in Lebanon - and they have reason for celebration - conclude two years of a failed Israeli battle against terrorism."

Steinitz underscored the growing strength of Hizbullah as a factor in the terror group's ability to manipulate Israeli policymaking. "Hizbullah has come out of these two years stronger military and stronger politically. With our help, Hizbullah has mislead us for two years regarding the condition of the abducted soldiers, as to whether they are dead or alive.

"We have become the only country in the West and perhaps in the entire world, which is ready to release terrorist murderers in exchange for bodies and body parts," he remarked. "This is a dangerous precedent… and I must say that the entire country has derailed."

Steinitz also indicted the Israeli press for contributing to national derailment: "The media has a part in this," he charged.

"Even in difficult situations, there remain principles. And our leadership…must lead, and not be led by the public or by the media, and not even by the families [of the POW's]. And when you lead, there are long term factors of national security to be taken into consideration.

"A prize was awarded today to terrorism. It reflects a general policy of surrender to Hizbullah and to Hamas in Gaza. We have given Hamas a de facto authorization to continue to rearm and build itself into a Hizbullah II in Gaza," Steinitz concluded.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens echoed the anti-swap deal sentiment, deeming the decision to release the terrorists a "complete lack of judgement" and calling the Olmert cabinet's deal a "mistake that is forbidden to make," as it encourages the enemy to kidnap more soldiers.

There has been public as well as official outcry in Israel at the prisoner swap.

Shifra Hoffman, founder of Victims of Arab Terror International (VAT) organization, said her group “strongly condemns the government of Israel for agreeing to release Samir Kuntar, the bestial child killer and other Arab terrorists with ‘blood on their hands.’ This obscene exchange with Hizbullah, has, in effect, murdered the Jewish victims twice, and has opened the door for future terrorist attacks by Arab killers, who see that they have nothing to fear in perpetrating these horrendous acts on innocent Israeli men, woman and children.”

Hoffman added in a Tuesday interview with INN that Hoffman added in an interview with INN that in its decision to release the Hizbullah murderers, the Israeli government is acting against the express opposition of military and security experts.
Please note the paragraph I highlighted above. As much as I have been critical of the Goldwasser and Regev families over the past few days, I cannot really blame them for their actions. Any of us who were - God forbid - in the same position, would have done the same to try to get our loved ones released. But the government is to blame, because the government is supposed to have the public interest at heart and is not supposed to place the interests of individual families ahead of the public interest. The result of today's 'exchange' means that the price for Gilad Shalit is going to be higher - much higher - and you can bet that this government is going to pay it. And you can rest assured that Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev will not be the last soldiers kidnapped.
Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Gaza-based umbrella terror group Popular Resistance Committees [Shalit's kidnappers. CiJ], told Ynet Wednesday that the completion of the deal "even after the images of the Israeli soldiers' coffins, proves that kidnapping soldiers will continue to be the most efficient, favored and ideal way to release Palestinian prisoners, particularly those defined by the enemy as having blood on their hands."
Yet another bitter legacy of the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government that is likely to be with us for some time to come.

If it's any small consolation fellow Israelis, Bret Stephens noted in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that negotiating over hostages is a global phenomenon:
This is more than just a problem for Israel. With its July 1976 raid on Entebbe, Israel demonstrated there was an alternative to negotiating with terrorists. That didn't mean that every hostage rescue attempt would end happily. But it did offer the possibility that, eventually, hostage takers would realize they're in a bad business.

Instead, business has boomed. In Iraq in 2005, Germany paid $5 million for the freedom of a kidnapped aid worker. The results were predictable. As Britain's Guardian reported last year: "Because it is known that the German government – like those of Italy and France – is willing to pay ransoms, the 'value' of German kidnap victims has risen in the Middle East." The three German tourists recently kidnapped by the Kurdish PKK are only the latest "beneficiaries" of past German largess.

Maybe it's par for the course that European governments should act this way: The notion of moral hazard is nearly as alien to them as that of national honor. It's a different matter when Israel behaves the same way, not only because it is the prime target of attack, but because, in the face of terrorism, Israel still defines the standard of democratic courage by which the rest of the free world must, sooner or later, measure itself.

If Israel is no longer prepared to hold the line, will America be far behind?
No, that's not much consolation at all.


At 7:40 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I feel only shame. Every Jew in the world feels ashamed today. The Israel government talks of respect of the dead. Well it has no respect for the feelings of Jews. Ehud Olmert has entered the history books along with his colleagues for the national humiliation they've inflicted upon the State Of Israel won't be forgiven or forgotten. In other words, even though getting back the boys is an important thing to do, the price of doing so was just too high.


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