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Op-Ed: Gilad Shalit: Once We Were Giants

Every kid I grew up with knew the morally constant rule: don't mess with the Israelis. Something happened.
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 1:57 PM


 
I grew up believing Israelis were giants. The roughest, toughest, meanest, orneriest and holiest men walking G-d's green Earth.
 
For me, Israelis were modern day Davids running rough-shod over the Philistine hordes. It wasn't just romanticism. It was fact. 
 
I was a year old when Israel sent the Arab invaders packing during the Yom Kippur War. 
 
Michael Harari was executing righteous vengeance and chasing down the perpetrators of the Munich massacre and sending them to their graves before I could walk.
 
I was four when Israel carried out the stunningly audacious Operation Thunderbolt and rescued the 95 hostages at Entebbe.
 
I wasn't yet 9 when an intrepid Israeli pilot riding his chariot through the sky took out Iraq's Osirik reactor.
 
The world condemned the strike. And then privately breathed a sigh of relief. Israel had established a paradigm where it wielded frightful deterrence.
 
Every kid I grew up with knew the morally constant rule: don't mess with the Israelis.
 
That kind of deterrence had more than the mere real political force of military success behind it. 
 
It was driven by a sense of purpose and identity held dear by a nation that had risen miraculously from the ashes and resurrected a waking reality from a dream it had dreamt for eighteen centuries.
 
It was the moral force of a people who had pride in who they were and what they - through their Torah and traditions - stood for.
 
Israelis were a proud people unafraid to demand their rights and to declare their worth - not the least of which was the high price of Jewish blood.
 
But at some point the force behind Israel's deterrence was lost. In the scandalous words of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israelis grew "tired of winning."
 
What was so chilling was that Olmert, who was only speaking for a certain group, who is only representative of a trend of ennui that has struck deep among Israel's so-called power elite, didn't ken what he himself had told the world.
 
For Israel, winning isn't simply about success on the battle field against foes who would not only drive us out, but slay us to a man.
 
Its about the Jewish dream, and our sense of identity, purpose, and worth. Its about being sovereign and secure so that we may build a G-dly society and be a light unto nations.
 
Winning is about who we are and why we are here. Without a divinely mandated sense of manifest destiny - without believing we have the deed to the land - we don't deserve to be here.
 
And the Arabs know it.
 
Releasing a 1,000 terrorists, many with Jewish blood on their hands, to free one soldier whose duty was to go into harms way to protect his people is flatly unacceptable.
 
That the release of arch-terrorist and anti-Semite Marwan Bhargouti is even being considered as a part of such a deal only underscores the dissonance ruling Jerusalem’s halls of power. 
 
It sends the clear message to the terrorists we're no longer giants - that our children are theirs to kidnap and kill, and that our blood comes cheap.
 
"People make peace with the strong. They don't make peace with the weak. They push the weak aside," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said before Rosh Hashannah.
 
The deal reportedly brokered for Gilad Shalit's release is a sign of weakness stemming from moral bankruptcy - and an invitation to genocide.
 
I feel deeply for Gilad Shalit. He has suffered and lost years in the service of his nation. I see his parents and weep for them.
 
But his suffering, and theirs, does not justify actions that will lead to more families suffering as they have, or worse, the deaths of the countrymen Gilad was honor bound to protect.
 
Nor does it justify sacrificing our deterrence, which is intimately bound up with our national soul. 
 
It’s time for Israelis remember how to be giants.