The Likud’s newest star, Moshe Ya’alon, has recently made headlines for acknowledging the truth in Tzipi Livni statement regarding Gilad Schalit. Livni, largely criticized for remarking that Schalit’s release is not a certainty, received some unexpected support from the former Chief of Staff, who said, “The expression, ‘at any price’ is not appropriate.”
As much as I disagree with Livni on countless other issues, here she is right. This is not to say that the motto of “leave no man [or woman] behind” should be abandoned. Israel must do everything in its power to secure the release of its prisoners. That being said, Israel’s policy of negotiation with enemies, leading to the release of terrorists, is foolhardy at best. As Ya’alon said, “We have brought ourselves to a point where it’s worthwhile [for the enemy] to kidnap soldiers.” Such a situation is untenable.
What should be done? First, a firm policy of not negotiating with terrorists should be adopted. If Israel refuses to negotiate, then it will not be worthwhile for Hamas, et al, to put so much time and effort into kidnapping just one person. Granted, public opinion is not in favor of such a policy, but that is precisely why such a strategy is so important. The very reason kidnapping Israelis is such a lucrative venture is the strong public pressure that ensues to liberate the kidnapped by giving in to the terrorists’ demands. This only serves to embolden them further, to attempt additional kidnappings.
Nevertheless, Israel cannot leave its soldiers behind. While all IDF soldiers do, in effect, sign away their lives upon conscription, I am in no way advocating a cavalier approach to dealing with their lives. As risky as such undertakings are, Israel must make use of its military force in order to free Gilad Schalit, and any other Israeli soldier kidnapped by its enemies. Military rescue operations are necessary in order to liberate Israeli prisoners. Yes, sometimes such operations do not achieve the intended result (see: Nachshon Waxman). However, we cannot afford the alternative – a policy that does nothing to solve the real problem. A real solution is needed, not a case-by-case approach, merely treating a symptom, allowing the disease to spread.
I am aware that none of Gilad Schalit’s loved ones would like to see Israel boycotting neogotiations for his release. I have no answer for them, for theirs is truly an emotional appeal, and I do not portend to understand (nor want to) how they feel. However, if Israel wants these kidnappings (and the endless kidnapping attempts) to end, a quick 180 is needed, and fast.