People say to me, "ok, you can criticize our leaders and point out what we shouldn't be doing. What should we be doing?"
OK, here is my 8 point plan for restoring Israel's standing and deterrence in this region. One caveat- this is based on what information is available to me. I obviously cannot decide based on secret information unknown to me.
1. The Prime Minister needs to have an immediate face to face discussion with Mr Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit's father. It should go something like this: "Noam, I know how hard this has been for you and how your family has been suffering because of your son's captivity. But as PM of this country our higher national interests are at stake. I need to be concerned about Israel's deterrence and standing in this region, for the sake of all Israelis, civilians and soldiers alike. Therefore, I have decided that we are cutting off all negotiations with the terrorist Hamas organization for the release of Palestinian prisoners. We will continue to unequivocally demand Gilad's release and back up these demand via diplomatic, economic and military pressure. But under no circumstances will we consider paying Hamas a "ransom" by releasing any more prisoners. "
2. After the above discussion, the following public message such be sent to Hamas: "I, as prime minister of the State of Israel, do not negotiate with terrorists. Therefore, I have ordered all of Israel's representatives involved in the dialogue for paying "ransom" for Gilad Shalit, to halt and desist, effective immediately, all negotiations with Hamas over the release of Palestinian prisoners. The only dialogue which we will have with you is regarding the venue of release of Gilad Shalit. In the absence of negotiations, the State of Israel unequivocally demands the unconditional release of Shalit. We furthermore demand, in accordance with international law, that Hamas allow Shalit to be visited by the Internation Red Cross.
"The State of Israel will support these demands by all means including unrelenting diplomatic, economic and military pressure until such time Shalit is released. The State of Israel holds the terrorist entity of Gaza responsible for Shalit's like and return to safety.
" At the same time. let me clearly state that at such time when a permanent cessation of hostilities occurs between Palestinians, including Hamas, and Israel, then as part of a natural process of reconciliation, a mutual release of prisoners would occur. As such time I would be prepared to release most, if not all, of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
3. The above steps will be accompanied by a major public relations campaign in the popular Israeli media, to be supported by all of Israel's ministers. This campaign will explain the dangers inherent in negotiating and submitting to terrorist demands, including an erosion in Israel's deterrence, the strengthening of extremist elements in Palestinian society, and of the risk of released terrorists return to hostile activity, lacking a comprehensive cessation of hostilities.
4. The Hamas rulers of Gaza will be notified the following: Effective immediately, any violation of the cease fire agreed to in June, including even a single rocket attack, will be met by an immediate and severe response. This will include, but not be limited to, an artillery or rocket attack against Gaza civilian infrastructure, including bridges, roads, public buildings, and utilities, and/or reclosing the Gaza borders for unspecified periods of time.
5. It goes without saying that the above threat will actually be carried out consistently and as often as necessary. No minor violations will be allowed, even if carried out by supposed "splinter" terrorist groups. We hold Hamas responsible for Gaza, period. We need to behave like the stronger party, and we have no reason to be "forgiving" to Palestinian violations.
6. The Israeli government will send the following message to Lebanon: We seek no confrontation with you, and we have no territorial ambitions. Shaba farms will be returned to you as part of a negotiatied peace agreement between our countries. At the same time, Hizbullah, which is part of your government, had committed gross violations of the ceasefire as agreed to in UN resolution 1701. This the the reason for our flights in Lebanese airspace, which are necessary for our national security, in the face of Hizbullah's military buildup.
Since Hizbullah is part of your government, and your cabinet has recently adopted Hizbullah's platform vis a vis Israel, we hereby state that the Government of Lebanon is responsible for any all all hostile military activity against Israel, whether by Hizbullah or any other military body. As such, any attack on Israeli military or civilian targets, wherever they may be, will be considered a hostile act by the sovereign government in Lebanon, and it shall bear the consequences. To be clear: in the event that Lebanon initiates any attack against Israel, such as a rocket or mortar attack, infiltration, or attempt a kidnapping of soldiers or civilians, Israel will react swiftly, immediately and severely against Lebanon's government and infrastructure, including buildings, airports, and utilities.
7. It is important to realize that there are many regional and world trends that are beyond our control (such as the resumption of the cold war with Russia, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism). As such it is important that we not overextend our reach. In the present global environment of easy transfer of information, people and equipment, including abundant Russian and Chinese weapons, it is almost impossible to stop the armament of our adversaries. It is important in this environment to restore deterrence as a defensive measure.
8. Given #7 I believe that Israel should abandon the open effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. I believe that Israel can do very little to prevent this, and any military operation will have severe costs, and not prevent future rearmament. Furthermore, our failure will have further severe consequences on deterrence. In addition, if Iran really wants to quickly acquire such weapons, they can simply smuggle them in from one of the rogue nuclear states, such as Pakistan or North Korea, or perhaps Russia. The overall effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran should be left to the US, as part of a wider regional confrontation in the context of the Cold War. We should stay out of this conflict and watch from the sidelines, while supporting US efforts and not complicating them. As part of our deterrent against Iran we should clearly state that in the event of any Iranian attack on Israel, Tehran will be destroyed by our missiles, against which they are currently undefended.
9. I think that the American government and people will support these policies.
In particular I believe that steps 1 through 5 will have an immediate positive effect on Israel's position, and will completely neutralize Hamas' gain from the kidnapping of Shalit. Steps 6-8 will have an effect over the long term.