June 29, 2008

Sign of Life - Time of Death

I have a deep sense of foreboding about the decision reached by Olmert’s cabinet today. This is not just about an unfair exchange or even the breaking of a principle in trading with terrorists. Ariel Sharon crossed both those red lines 4 years ago when he traded 400 prisoners and 60 bodies for the release of his drug dealing ‘acquaintance’ Elchanan Tennenbaum.

This is much more serious.

As I blogged a few days ago, the position of the Israeli government from Day 1 (two years ago) should have been to hold Hezbolla fully responsible for the lives of Regev and Goldwasser. By agreeing to accept an exchange ‘dead or alive’ this excuse for a government has let Hezbolla and Hamas off the hook and put the life of every future Israeli prisoner-of-war in mortal danger. There will no longer be any compelling reason to keep Jewish captives alive, or give them the medical treatment they need. Less still any reason to send a ‘sign of life’ to their shattered families.

And here we are not talking about people who are likely to breach the Geneva Convention. We are talking of subhumans who glorify themselves in shedding of Jewish blood as a religious duty impressed on them from the cradle. Like those who beheaded Daniel Pearl just because he was Jewish.

Tomorrow the papers and talking heads will all be pontificating about how this was the best deal available – that there was no choice. But there’s no escaping the clear fact that an enormous damage has been done to the credibility of the Jewish state and its deterrent power in the future. Damage to the morale of soldiers and reservists. And heaps of empowerment to Hassan Nasrallah as the Israeli prime minister who is ‘tired of fighting and tired of winning’ hands him the victory of a well-fed and fighting-fit killer like Samir Kuntar returning to the terrorist fold just as he had promised his followers.

You see at least Nasrallah keeps his promises to the little people.

But - surprise, surprise - I saw no anger in the faces of the Goldwasser and Regev families. It was more a feeling of resignation or perhaps a catharsis for them. Even the sole survivor of Kuntar’s butchery was prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt. So, I ask myself: who am I to second-guess 22 cabinet members and most members of the families directly affected?

But there’s one thing that bothers me. That I just can’t get my head around.

What was the hurry?

If Goldwasser and Regev are indeed not alive, why is Israel rushing to release Kuntar and the other prisoners. And providing the further goodies that Iran needed to know about its missing diplomats?

I try to keep pace with Israeli stories as much as I can, but perhaps I have missed something. All Israel appears to be getting in return for this are two bodies and a ‘report’ about Ron Arad, missing in action for 22 years.

So I ask again: what’s the hurry?

Wouldn’t it have made sense to defer any deal with Hezbolla until Gilad Schalit was freed? After all, Hamas did make the mistake of showing his family a ‘sign of life’ with letters passed on from Gilad; a mistake no terrorist organisation will ever make again after today’s cabinet vote.

So … why not insist on Schalit being freed in advance?

That way Israel would get back at least one LIVE soldier.

Makes sense, no?

Most likely Hezbolla said they had no control over Hamas and that these were two separate terror businesses with whom separate negotiations had to be held. Olmert, Livni and Barak would easily have bought such a story – after all, they believe that terrorists are like cholesterol – there are some good and some bad.

The reality is, that if Eldad and Ehud are not alive, there was no hurry and there is no hurry. And there was no justification to finalise any deal, let alone open the Gaza crossings (under continuing mortar fire) before Gilad Schalit was delivered back into the arms of his family.

Whatever happens – this is a black day that will haunt Israel for decades to come.

But if Gilad Schalit is not home before Kuntar is fêted in Beirut, there will be a helluva lot of explaining to do.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One last thought on this subject.

The unrepentant Kuntar promises to return to killing Jews just as soon as the celebrations are over.

Surely it cannot be beyond the ken of Israeli geniuses, who invented the cellphone and Pentium chip, to implant something microscopic into such released prisoners so that they can be accurately rocketed not long afterwards, along with their next raiding party.


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