Column One: Not a personal affair
Jun. 26, 2008 Caroline Glick , THE JERUSALEM POST
On Sunday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will bring the matter of IDF reserve
soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser before his cabinet. The two
reservists, who are presumed dead, have not been heard from since they were
kidnapped to Lebanon by Hizbullah on July 12, 2006. Olmert will instruct his
ministers to vote on whether Israel should release Samir Kuntar and three
Hizbullah terrorists from its prisons to secure the return of their bodies.
On April 21, 1979, Kuntar and four other terrorists infiltrated Israel from
Lebanon. Kuntar entered the Nahariya apartment belonging to Danny and Smadar
Haran and their daughters, two-year-old Yael and Einat, a four-month-old
baby. Kuntar forced Danny and Einat to the beach below. There he shot Danny
in the head and then drowned him in the sea. He crushed Einat’s skull on a
rock with his rifle butt. Smadar evaded capture by hiding in a crawlspace of
their apartment with Yael. While trying to keep Yael silent, Smadar
inadvertently suffocated her.
Kuntar has pledged that if released, he will join Hizbullah and continue his
quest to bring about the destruction of Israel. He has no regrets.
As the government ministers vote to release Kuntar and his associates in
exchange for Goldwasser and Regev’s bodies, Ofer Dekel, Olmert’s point man
for hostage negotiations, will be sitting in Cairo. There he is negotiating
the price of releasing IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who for two years has been
held hostage by Hamas and its fellow terror groups in Gaza. Unlike Regev and
Goldwasser, Schalit is presumed alive. His captors have forced him to send
messages to his parents demanding that Israel release Palestinian terrorists
in exchange for his freedom.
According to the Egyptian media, Hamas is demanding 1,000 terrorists now in
Israeli jails in exchange for Schalit. Most of them are convicted murderers.
For its part, the government has expressed its willingness to release
murderers for Schalit. But it is still unclear how many.
Among the many killers whose release Hamas demands are the masterminds of
the Seder massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya where 30 people were
murdered on March 27, 2002. According to the Arab media, most of the
masterminds of suicide bombings in recent years are on Hamas’s list.
It is impossible to know precisely how many Israelis will be killed in the
future if the deals now on the table are approved. But past experience shows
that at a minimum, dozens of Israelis now innocently going about their
business will be murdered by the terrorists Israel releases. And at a
minimum, one or two Israelis will be abducted by Hamas or Hizbullah or one
of their sister terror organizations. They will be abducted in Israel or
while they are travelling abroad and they will be brought to Lebanon or Gaza
and the cycle of blood extortion and psychological warfare will begin anew.
That Israel will pay a price in blood if the deals go through is a
certainty. That more Israelis will meet the fates of Schalit, Regev and
Goldwasser is a certainty. The only thing we do not know today is the names
of the victims. They could be any one of us. Indeed, they are all of us. For
all of us are equally targeted simply by virtue of the fact that we are
Given these certainties, it is obvious that the deals now on the table ought
to be rejected completely. And yet, they will both almost certainly be
approved. The fact that this is the case is yet another damning indictment
of Israel’s elected leaders and its media. In equal parts, they share the
blame for the fact that Israel is about to accede to Faustian bargains that
will bring untold suffering to the country.
TO DATE, the only clear public call to reject these deals was made by former
IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon. At a conference on
military leadership Tuesday, Ya’alon argued against the deals explaining,
“In some situations, the price to pay as part of the deal is much heavier
than the price of losing the captive soldier.”
Ya’alon’s statement should have been a springboard for a reasoned debate.
But the local media would have none of it. Rather than enable a responsible
debate, the media called on Schalit’s father, Noam Schalit, to rebut
Noam Schalit brutally and unfairly denounced Ya’alon as a political
operative. In his words, “No politician or political operative has the right
to determine the fate of an IDF POW, except a commander during battle.
Ya’alon was an army commander, but today he is mainly a politician and a
political operative. He and anyone else can determine a POW’s fate only if
it concerns their own son.”
Piling on, Goldwasser’s father, Shlomo Goldwasser, said, “Such words can
only be spoken by a man whose son is not held captive by the enemy. He would
have spoken differently had the matter been a personal concern of his.”
The brutal truth is that the hostages’ fathers have things precisely
backwards. With all due respect, it is they that should not be listened to.
Through no fault of their own, the Regev, Goldwasser and Schalit families
have become the mouthpieces of Hizbullah and Hamas. This is as natural as it
The moment their sons were abducted, the Schalit, Regev and Goldwasser
families also became prisoners. In constant agony over the fate of their
sons, these families are incapable of acknowledging the cruel and
devastating fact that the safety of three soldiers cannot be placed above
Israel’s national security. In their unmitigated suffering, they cannot come
to terms with this horrible fact because for them the country, and indeed
the world, is made up of their loved ones. This is the natural human
condition. Each person’s world is defined by the presence and absence of his
loved ones. For the Goldwassers, Regevs and Schalits, Israel is a
meaningless, cold, dark place when it doesn’t include their sons Ehud, Eldad
And it is precisely for this reason that they cannot be allowed to dictate
policy. It is precisely for this reason that the only ones who can
responsibly weigh Israel’s options for releasing them are those who are not
personally affected by their plight.
IN 2005, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon had his ministers vote on a
proposed deal in which Israel would release hundreds of terrorists in
exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Benny Avraham, Omar Suweid and Adi
Avitan, and for Elhanan Tenenbaum, an Israeli drug dealer held hostage by
Hizbullah. Among the few ministers who voted against the deal was former
Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky.
Sharansky recalls that Sharon called him the evening before the vote in an
effort to secure his support. “He told me, ‘As a former prisoner, you above
all should understand our moral responsibility to bring about their
Sharansky responded that, indeed, “As a prisoner, it is important to know
that your country is doing everything it can to secure your release. But it
is also true that you are not willing to be released at any price. There are
things that are more important than your personal survival.”
It is a stinging indictment of Israel’s political and media culture that the
debate about these life-threatening deals has been dominated by the
impassioned and tragic pleas of the hostages’ families. As Sharansky notes,
if as Messieurs Schalit and Goldwasser argue, issues of paramount national
security are to be determined by the parents of soldiers, then no government
can ever commit forces to battle. It is an abdication of national
responsibility for Olmert to send the Goldwasser, Regev and Schalit families
to his colleagues to beg them to vote in favor of these blood deals. And it
is an abdication of responsibility by the media when they provide these
terrified, victimized families with an open microphone to rail against our
politicians for refusing to have mercy on them.
Due to Hizbullah’s and Hamas’s deliberate, evil designs, the Goldwasser,
Schalit and Regev families find themselves set apart from the rest of their
countrymen. And since their personal suffering is easier to understand than
the general suffering of the public if the murderers go free, it is
difficult, but not impossible to understand what is at stake.
Again, that the price is not clear is the fault of the media and the
pandering politicians. Disgracefully, both have left the Israeli people as a
whole unrepresented in this debate.
AND THIS is not a unique situation. In recent years, led by the hydra of its
media and self-interested politicians, the Israeli public has had next to no
representation in the public square. This came across clearly in the
politicians’ handling and the media’s coverage of the other major story of
the week. That story of course was the backroom deal forged Tuesday night
between the Labor Party and Kadima that torpedoed the opposition’s plan to
hold a preliminary vote Wednesday to dissolve the Knesset and move to
general elections in November.
The deal, in which Kadima committed itself to holding a primary for its
leadership post in September, guaranteed the Kadima-Labor-Shas government
another nine months in power. Olmert, Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and their
surrogates have defended the deal by arguing that what Israel needs most now
is political stability. The only one harmed by their decision, they
proclaimed, is Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. The media parroted their
arguments, scoffing at Likud politicians for “sewing their ministerial suits
As with the hostages-for-terrorists deals, by personalizing the issue at
hand, both the politicians and the media ignored the public. The reason that
“stability” can only be assured by preventing elections is that for the past
two years, public opinion polls have consistently shown that the public
wants to replace the Kadima-Labor-Shas government with a Likud-led
government. It is not the personal ambitions of Likud politicians that were
scuttled on Tuesday night. It was the public’s will.
It may seem crass to conflate issues affecting Israel’s national security
with issues affecting the identity of Israel’s national leadership. It can
be argued that they are unrelated. But the fact of the matter is that in
both cases, no one is representing the public interest. In their rush to
treat general issues as personal stories, whether of victimized families or
of ambitious politicians, both our media and our leaders behave as if there
are no general consequences for their actions.
Personal stories are always powerful. Whether they are tragic, titillating
or irritating, they never fail to attract our attention. But their
attraction must not dwarf matters of national concern. Looking ahead,
Israel’s troubles will not end until our leaders and our media finally
accept that Israel’s collective fate is not the personal affair of any one