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I Lied...

By Paula Stern
12/23/2009, 12:00 AM

I wrote that I was on the fence between two sides of a debate about Gilad Shalit. I explained that one side is ready to do all that is necessary to finally bring Gilad home; and one side refuses to trade 1,000 terrorists and murderers for one Israeli soldier. Between the two are many who want so desperately to see Gilad home and yet understand so completely what will happen if this trade is confirmed. I wrote that I sat there on the fence because...because it is the easiest place to be.

To stand on the side willing to trade 1000 for Gilad means to accept responsibility not if, but when, these terrorists kill again. It means knowing that Gilad's parents will celebrate and Gilad will come home...and in the future, even the near future, other parents will know the sorrow of Gilad's parents...but the price will be 2,000. To sit there means to know that in the future, other parents will mourn, and there will be nothing left to trade, just endless sorrow.

To sit on the side against the trade means to accept responsibility that Hamas may kill Gilad and worse, they may say they did...and then that they didn't...and then that they did...and then that they didn't. And each time will be agony; each will be unbearable sorrow. It means knowing Gilad may never come home. It means turning our back, even just a little, on our own sons, knowing that what we now say we cannot do for Gilad, we can never agree to do in the future.

To sit in the middle is to say I understand both sides, agree with both sides and can't make up my mind because it is too painful. It means saying my heart and love go with Gilad...and with the parents who will yet bury their children if this deal goes through. It means looking at my son and not having to answer ... what if...

But, the truth is...I lied.

I'm not on the fence. It's easier to admit to being on the fence than think of looking at Gilad's parents and telling them no. Not for Gilad, not for any soldier. I can't bring myself to write the words that come into my mind. It's a game I'm playing with myself. If I don't write my son, Elie's name, I don't have to imagine the scenario.

If I were Gilad's parents, I would have done all that they have done; gone to every door, every capital in the world. I would have done all that they have done, as they have done it...if I could find the amazing strength and courage. All they have done is what loving parents should do. I find no fault with a word or action they have done. All that they have demanded...is what every parent can and should demand.

If it were me, I might just as easily have crawled into a corner and sat there for all these three long years and beyond. I'm not sure, in their situation, if I would have shown the wisdom, the character, the strength, the courage to put one foot in front of the other, to laugh, to talk, to live. Even breathing seems more than can be expected.

If I were the Prime Minister of Israel, I might quit over this decision alone. I would not want to be there, to tell Gilad's parents that the answer is no. Oh God, the answer has to be no. What agonies of the heart they must feel, what pain our Prime Minister must inflict. But no, we cannot release 1,000 prisoners, not for any single Israeli. Not the Prime Minister himself, not the President, the Chief Rabbi, not even for a child, not even for Gilad.

We can release one, even two - no matter what horrible crimes they have committed, no matter how much blood is on their hands. We could do this for Gilad. We could release Marwan Barghouti, with his disgusting smug look. He is what the Palestinians believe will lead them into the future. He is a killer who has organized without thought or regret, even gleefully, the deaths of dozens of Israelis. Our courts examined the evidence...and sentenced him to five consecutive life terms. This is not a leader, this is a murderer, the worst, the lowest. Take him, I would say to the Palestinians - take him for Gilad. Him, but not more.

One thousand - one thousand who have killed how many? One thousand...who will return and kill how many more?

I lied and I have to tell the truth. If the decision were mine...and I thank God every day it is not...I would refuse the deal. I would tell the Palestinians no, not for Gilad, not for anyone. Take me and let Gilad go; pick one Palestinian prisoner - anyone you want and I'll trade him, but no.

And then, I would reach inside myself and tell Gilad's parents. I would listen to the sound of their hearts breaking and know that I had caused it. I would feel guilt beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life and know that it was a feeling that would haunt me for the rest of my life.

And I would know that I have lied to myself for the last time. No, God, no. Not even for my son, who I love more than words can express. Not for him...would I let other parents bury their children in the future. Not even for my own...and Gilad is one of mine too. That's what it means to be a soldier's mother...we become, in so many ways, mother to them all.

And with that, with a heart breaking and tears that may never end, I admit the truth. We cannot release 1000 prisoners, not even for Gilad.