Monday, December 21, 2009

Another Lop-Sided Prisoner Exchange on the Way

I shudder to think of the massive strategic damage that Israel will inflict upon itself when it approves (and I'm sure it will) the latest deal for Gilad Shalit. No, it's not fair that Gilad Shalit and his parents should shoulder the responsibility for Israel's strategic position in the Middle East. But it wasn't "fair" that he was kidnapped in the first place.

The released terrorists will return to organizing and carrying out terrorist activity. Nobody questions this, given the history of these releases in the past. Hamas will rightfully claim a major victory against Israel, which will strike a mortal blow against Abbas and his Fatah organization. Nothing Israel could do would prove more clearly to Hamas that kidnapping pays off and so does force. The damage to Israel's deterrence and diplomatic status in the region will be incalculable, and will dwarf the harm that Israel suffered in the Lebanon War of 2006. Hamas and Hizbullah will be emboldened, and Israel will hold its breath, until the next kidnapping or wave of terrorist attacks. Yet Israel's leaders and media continue to march forward in a march of the mad.

I feel sorry for the Shalit family, and I certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes. But I cannot imagine any other country acting in such an irrational way, contrary to its supreme national interest. There are those who argue that Shalit's release is necessary because of a "contract" with draftees, that anything will be done to secure their release, and that boys won't agree to be drafted otherwise. But I have seen no evidence of this. For the past 3 years since Shalit's kidnapping, there has been no such phenomenon. Motivation is high. Any draft dodging is done for other ideological reasons, having nothing to do with Shalit.

Israel needs to act like a proud and strong country, willing to act (and suffer if necessary) to secure its national interests.