On June 25, 2006 Palestinian militants crossed the border from the Gaza Strip before sunrise through a tunnel hundreds of meters long. When the terrorists surfaced in Israeli territory, they came up behind the IDF troops, then attacked Shalit’s Gaza-facing tank.
Two Israeli soldiers jumped out of the tank and were gunned down on the spot. Shalit emerged from the tank a little later, and was taken captive. A fourth soldier who was wounded and unconscious was later rescued from the tank by Israeli soldiers.
Most people, including Israelis living in Israel, do not recognize the names and the faces of Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff Sgt. Pavel Slutzker. The two Israeli soldiers killed in action during Shalit’s abduction became one more case in the long list of distant statistics. At the same time, Gilad Shalit, the only lucky survivor of the June 25 ambush has become a national hero, a celebrity, a family member in most Israeli households. He became a lost brother in an urgent need of rescue.
On October 12, 2000, two Israeli reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, traveling in the West Bank, mistakenly entered Ramallah. Reaching a Palestinian Authority roadblock, where they should have been turned back as had been done in previous cases, the reservists were detained by PA policemen and taken to the local police station. Hearing rumors that undercover Israeli agents were in the building, Palestinian rioters stormed the building.
The soldiers were beaten, stabbed, had their eyes gouged out, and were disemboweled. At this point, a Palestinian (later identified as Aziz Salha), appeared at the police station window, displaying his blood-stained hands to the crowd, which erupted into cheers. One of the soldier's bodies was then thrown out the window and stamped and beaten by the enraged mob. One of the bodies was set on fire. Soon after, the mob dragged the two mutilated bodies to Al-Manara Square in the city center as the crowd began an impromptu victory celebration [see Wikipedia, 2000 Ramallah Lynching for further details]
On October 18, 2011, Aziz Salha, the butcher of that incident in Ramallah, was scheduled to be released with other 1026 Palestinian terrorists in a deal between Israel and Hamas that freed Gilad Shalit from captivity.
Why was Israel willing to pay such a high price, 1027 terrorists, many with blood of innocent Israelis on their hands, for one Gilad Shalit? Was it too high of a price or was it just right?
The answer rests on whom you ask.
I can understand GIlad’s parents, family and friends. No price would ever be too high for them. They would have given in to any terrorists’ demand, regardless of how outrageous, extreme or damaging it would have been. Gilad is their son; he is their everything. Every caring parent would have done the same.
But what about the rest of us? Why do over 70% of Israeli citizens not seem to be bothered by the high price? Why do Israelis value Gilad Shalit more than the ones who may die or be kidnapped because Israel has emboldened and energized those who concluded that violence is the answer?
Isn’t it true that all things considered, the Shalit deal has proved that the consequence of a long term imprisonment as a deterrent for murdering Israelis is trifling since Hamas will try to replicate the Shalit episode in order to have these terrorists set free prematurely? Isn’t it true that the apparent PA’s way of non-violent resistance seems to yield no results, that Hamas’s unyielding violent position has proved to be spot-on?
The answer rests on the fact that Gilad’s parents with the patronage of the Israeli media were able to run a professional campaign supported by a skilled organization backed by considerable financial contributions. They were delivering Gilad’s image to every Israeli home for the past five years; they were pleading for his release; they were conveying their personal pain, their own grief, his loneliness, his anguish, his life-threatening jeopardy. Their version became the talk around the dinner table; Israeli citizens grew to know Gilad and his story, his family and their plight. Israelis developed intimacy to the Shalits, and then, they adopted Gilad. He became a brother, a son. He turned out to be an integral extension of their family.
There was no opposing, organized movement. Although there were a few cries in the dark there was no persistent voice or media inducement explaining the consequences of giving in to Hamas’s demands, of boosting Hamas image as the true flag bearer of the Palestinians’ cause. There was no methodical campaign which could bring to light the dangers associated with letting loose life-term murderers of innocent Israelis to a place where they will continue to spray their poisonous venom. There was nothing of the kind that could match the painstaking campaign calling for Shalit’s freedom at any price— nothing!
As a consequence, the systematic campaign to free Gilad at any cost, prompted Hamas to toughen their stand; it enhanced Hamas’s negotiating position; it inevitably raised the price paid for bringing about Gilad’s freedom, and it pressured the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to go along and accommodate the wishes of its citizens.
It is impossible to assess the exact damage affected by the high price paid for Shalit’s freedom. The next Israeli victims, killed or kidnapped as a consequence of the deal are not yet known; they are not, and may never become family members in most Israeli households. Their tragedy will indeed cause pain—a short-lived one, but by and large these victims will not benefit from a campaign designed to elevate emotional sentiments over logical reasoning. These victims will become anonymous statistics shortly after they lose their lives. And consequently, most Israelis will never comprehend the repercussions fueled by the Shalit deal.
Dr. Avi Perry, a talk show host at Paltalk News Network, is the author of “Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks,” and more recently, “72 Virgins,” a thriller about the covert war on Islamic terror. He was a VP at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories distinguished staff member and manager, a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to UN International Standards body, a professor at Northwestern University and Intelligence expert for the Israeli Government. More information is available at www.aviperry.org
Undermining government policies, inhibiting successful acts designed to improve quality of life for its citizens is what the political opposition does in a democracy. But when these destructive actions are reinforced and amplified by the media, when they work against the national agenda, when the majority of the citizens swear by the false concepts the media is shoving down our throats, the outcomes may turn calamitous.
This is the situation we are in at the moment. Someone needs to set off the alarm bells and call the bluff, switch direction, and bring about a turnaround.
Case 1: The huge rallies, the ads, the protests, the outpouring sympathy designed to apply pressure on someone for releasing of Gilad Shalit from Hamas’s captivity do not help the poor kid. They accomplish the exact opposite. They raise the price we must pay for his freedom; they elevate his captors’ status, provide them with powers they would have never assumed, had the media and the public lowered the volume.
The result—Gilad is still in captivity with little hope for being set free—an exact opposite of the protesters’ objective.
Case 2: The world media including many world leaders have fashioned a trendy, misguided perception that the existing state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians is unsustainable, that time is running out on the current status quo, that a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority is absolutely essential.
Here in Israel people have deemed a peace agreement necessary in being able to move toward a more permanent and a more stable international standing, a more prosperous economy, and a more favorable view of Israel as a fair and just democracy.
These people point to the latest ostensible political tsunami—the Turkish condemnation and threats, the Egyptians’ attack on the Israeli embassy, the Jordanians’ hostile position, a world’s support for the unilateral Palestinians’ move in the UN—as proof of their world outlook. They accuse PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s, claiming that his policies are the root cause for Israel’s isolation.
Truth is, the situation Israel has found itself in lately is not new or unique, and certainly not worse than any past state of affairs. The Jewish state has been living under a cloud of isolation including an existential threat since before its birth. In fact, Israel’s international standing is relatively stable; its economy is growing faster than most of the world’s highly developed nations, and quality of life in the Jewish state is relatively high and reasonably safe—safer and better than at any time in its past one hundred years.
Once again, this flawed assessment is the primary motive behind the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) refusal to negotiate, to compromise. This false urgency weakens Israel’s negotiating position, brings about universal frustration with Israel’s inability to move the “peace process” forward as if this process is a matter of life or death for Israel—not for the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, the status quo is the best “bad” option Israel has at this point in its history. All other options—a single dual-national state with no Jewish majority or a return to the 1967 cease fire line with no security guaranties—are far worse. Israel must adopt the status quo option and sell it to the rest of the world even if most nations refuse to buy it.
Accepting the false notion that time is running out on the present status quo, that the existing state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians is unsustainable, is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It invites international pressure; it weakens Israel’s resolve, and it might even bear much worse consequences.
Case 3: Erroneously, the world keeps considering Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, as the representative of the Palestinian people. This view is obviously out of touch with reality. There are in fact two separate Palestinian entities, the PA, which is unstable at best, and Hamastan in Gaza , which is not under the PA's influence or jurisdiction. Furthermore, the government in Ramallah may be replaced by a terrorist regime before long, subsequent to signing of a peace agreement with Israel.
Although the Israeli government keeps reminding the world that Gaza is a terrorist nest, the world continues to regard Judea, Samaria and Gaza as the territory of the future Palestinian state following a peace agreement between Abbas and Israel. The contradiction and the insanity of this concept does not seem to register with anyone concerned with the peace process.
How will Israel defend itself against a terrorist state, with which it has signed a peace agreement? Won’t it be much more logical to hang on to the status quo, keep the checkpoints and maintain Israel’s legitimate right for preemptive means in self-defense?
By accepting Mahmud Abbas as the representative of all Palestinians, Israel continues to promote a fantasy. It reinforces a false notion and helps promote the Palestinian demand for a single Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Ignoring the facts that there are two separate (geographically and ideologically) Palestinian entities and the fact that Abbas is potentially replaceable by a Hamas leader is like claiming that Yasser Arafat was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, or that the Palestinians want to live in peace next to a Jewish state.
Accepting the imaginary notion that a peace agreement with Abbas would end the conflict with the Palestinians (including the regime in Gaza) and that Israel should strive for a two-state solution is the main reason for the world’s frustration with Israel’s inability to close on a peace agreement with the PA. Israel must make clear to the world that Abbas represents a small sect of the Palestinian people, that peace with Abbas is not peace with the Palestinians, and that peace with Abbas will only inhibit Israel’s ability to guard against Islamic terror practiced or supported by the majority of the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.