Lecture Pains Shalit's Sister

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Stern spoke against proposed Shalit deal but did not know abducted soldier's sister was in the audience.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 15:08

Elazar Stern
Elazar Stern
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The former IDF Head Education Officer and Personnel Branch Commander, Major General (res.) Elazar Stern, inadvertently offended the sister of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit early this week when he gave a lecture at Havat HaShomer IDF base in northern Israel.

Stern spoke out against the proposed deal for freeing Shalit, and did not know that Hadas Shalit, whose brother has been Hamas's captive for over four and a half years, was in the audience.   

Hadas was very distraught by the lecture and left the hall in tears.
Stern had repeated his known position, adamantly opposing the idea that Shalit should be freed "at any cost," as some Israelis demand. Hamas terrorists insist that 1,000 terrorists be freed in exchange for the young Armored Corps soldier, including dozens of the worst terrorist murderers in Israel's jails.
The former military man told the soldiers that while he understands the Shalit family's pain, he believes that Israel cannot pay a price for Shalit that would place the security of Israel and its citizens at risk. He noted that terrorists freed in previous deals had gone back to murdering people, and explained that the security establishment must be especially careful not to repeat the mistakes it had made in the past.  
Stern told IDF Radio Tuesday: "One of the [female] officers told me afterward, in everyone's presence, that I should not have mentioned Gilad Shalit because the subject is a sensitive one in the base. I answered her that I hope it is a sensitive subject in all of the IDF bases. They then explained that his sister serves at the base, and I am sorry that I raised the subject [in the lecture]. Had I known, I would not have mentioned him."
Stern said that while he regrets the circumstances in which he expressed his opinion, he does not take back the opinion itself. "I think the Israeli government should bend somewhat in order to free  Gilad Shalit, but there is a limit. In other countries it is not accepted practice at all to negotiate with terrorists."
In its early decades, Israel used to view terrorists with utter disgust and did not negotiate with them. Prime Minister Menachem Begin famously called PLO chief Yasser Arafat a "two-legged animal."  
In 1985, however, then-Defense Minister Yitzchak Rabin caved in to psychological pressure applied by Miriam Grof, the mother of an abducted soldier, whose campaign for the release of her son received support from the Israeli press. In an unprecedented concession to terrorists, Rabin agreed to exchange over 1,000 jailed terrorists for Grof and two other soldiers who had been held by the Jibril terror gang.
In 1993, Rabin signed the Oslo accord and shook hands with the "two legged animal" Arafat. Since then, Israel has been continuously negotiating with Arafat, his successors and his cronies.