|Friday, 28 October 2011 00:00|
The right intention
By Richard Bronstein
I’ve had very conflicted feelings about the release of Gilad Shalit.
It was good to see him – pale and gaunt as he was – finally able to return to his family and his country after five years and four months of very difficult captivity.
But like many people I also have a sense of dread that the lop sided prisoner exchange is a victory Hamas. As the Arab world writhes with change, the voices of Arab liberalism are clashing with fanatical Islamism. The Shalit deal is only strengthens the side that wants to doom Israel.
How does one weigh these conflicting issues?
After going back and forth about it almost hourly, I found the right compass finally. And it’s all thanks to an unlikely source – Wafa al-Biss, one of the freed Palestinian prisoners.
Al-Biss is the woman who set out from her home in Gaza for Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital in 2005, ostensibly for medical treatment. But when Israeli soldiers at the border crossing stopped her, it was found she was carrying 10 kilograms of explosives in her underwear.
Her bombing mission did not succeed and she was sentenced to 12 years in an Israeli prison, only to be released on October 16.
When she arrived in Gaza, al-Biss said: “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.” (Calgary Herald, page A-14, October 20.)
Of course she and the other convicted terrorists are expected to say things like that to keep the political pot boiling.
What galvanized me, however, is that al-Biss was talking to a group of school children.
To tell school children that God sanctions murder is beyond the pale. Is beyond humanity. Is beyond everything.
So I have no doubt in my mind that obtaining Gilad Shalit’s return is a good thing.
The price is high and the future consequences are unknown. The pain this exchange causes to families of victims of terror is a very real factor.
But at the end of the day all sides in this discussion – those for and against – had many opportunities to tell their side of the story. The Israeli public listened carefully and a very large consensus – nearly 80 per cent – Israelis agreed with the exchange even though they are fully aware that terrorism may increase again.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a courageous step in making this decision. He has opposed such prisoner exchanges in the past, and previous security advisors have cautioned against this particular deal. Yet the prime minister went ahead.
Are there other political motives involved? Probably, but that still does not negate the necessity of bringing Gilad Shalit home.
Israel’s security is not improved by leaving Shalit in prison a day longer. If Israel faces greater dangers tomorrow, it does so together, not on the back of the Shalit family.
In the near future we will probably hear a lot more from Gilad himself about what happened during his five-and-a-half years of captivity. In the meantime, I am sure the Shalit kitchen is a busy place with Mom plying her son with good Jewish home cooking. The right thing is happening.