The Price
The Price

On June 25, 2006 Palestinian militants crossed the border from the Gaza Strip before sunrise through a tunnel hundreds of meters long. When the terrorists surfaced in Israeli territory, they came up behind the IDF troops, then attacked Shalit’s Gaza-facing tank.

Two Israeli soldiers jumped out of the tank and were gunned down on the spot. Shalit emerged from the tank a little later, and was taken captive. A fourth soldier who was wounded and unconscious was later rescued from the tank by Israeli soldiers.

Most people, including Israelis living in Israel, do not recognize the names and the faces of Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff Sgt. Pavel Slutzker. The two Israeli soldiers killed in action during Shalit’s abduction became one more case in the long list of distant statistics.

At the same time, Gilad Shalit, the only lucky survivor of the June 25 ambush has become a national hero, a celebrity, a family member in most Israeli households. He became a lost brother in an urgent need of rescue.

On October 12, 2000, two Israeli reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz, a Russian immigrant, and Yossi Avrahami, traveling in the West Bank, mistakenly entered Ramallah. Reaching a Palestinian Authority roadblock, where they should have been turned back as had been done in previous cases, the reservists were detained by PA policemen and taken to the local police station.

Hearing rumors that undercover Israeli agents were in the building, Palestinian rioters stormed the building.

The soldiers were beaten, stabbed, had their eyes gouged out, and were disemboweled. At this point, a Palestinian (later identified as Aziz Salha), appeared at the police station window, displaying his blood-stained hands to the crowd, which erupted into cheers.

One of the soldier's bodies was then thrown out the window and stamped and beaten by the enraged mob. One of the bodies was set on fire. Soon after, the mob dragged the two mutilated bodies to Al-Manara Square in the city center as the crowd began an impromptu victory celebration.

On October 18, 2011, Aziz Salha, the butcher of that incident in Ramallah, was released with other 1026 Palestinian terrorists in a deal between Israel and Hamas that freed Gilad Shalit from captivity.

Why was Israel willing to pay such a high price, 1027 terrorists, many with blood of innocent Israelis on their hands, for one Gilad Shalit? Was it too high of a price or was it just right?

The answer depends on whom you ask.

I can understand GIlad’s parents, family and friends. No price would ever be too high for them. They would have given in to any terrorists’ demand, regardless of how outrageous, extreme or damaging it would have been. Gilad is their son; he is their everything. Every caring parent would have done the same.

But what about the rest of us? Why do over 70% of Israeli citizens not seem to be bothered by the high price? Why do Israelis value Gilad Shalit more than those who may die or be kidnapped because Israel has emboldened and energized those who have learned that violence is the answer?

Isn’t it true that all things considered, the Shalit deal has proved that the consequence of a long term imprisonment as a deterrent for murdering Israelis is trifling since Hamas will try to replicate the Shalit episode in order to have these terrorists set free prematurely? Isn’t it true that the apparent PA’s declaration of non-violent resistance seems to yield no results, that Hamas’s unyielding violent position has proved to be spot-on?

The answer rests on the fact that Gilad’s parents, with the patronage of the Israeli media, were able to run a professional campaign supported by a skilled organization backed by considerable financial contributions.

They were delivering Gilad’s image to every Israeli home for the past five years; they were pleading for his release; they were conveying their personal pain, their own grief, his loneliness, his anguish, his life-threatening jeopardy.

Their version became the talk around the dinner table; Israeli citizens grew to know Gilad and his story, his family and their plight. Israelis developed intimacy to the Shalits, and then, they adopted Gilad. He became a brother, a son. He turned out to be an integral extension of their family.

There was no opposing, organized movement. Although there were a few cries in the dark there was no persistent voice or media inducement explaining the consequences of giving in to Hamas’s demands, of boosting Hamas image as the true flag bearer of the Palestinians’ cause. The media squelched those efforts that there were.

There was no methodical campaign which could bring to light the dangers associated with letting loose life-term murderers of innocent Israelis to a place where they will continue to spray their poisonous venom.  There was nothing of the kind that could match the painstaking campaign calling for Shalit’s freedom at any price— nothing!

As a consequence, the systematic campaign to free Gilad at any cost, prompted Hamas to toughen their stand; it enhanced Hamas’s negotiating position; it inevitably raised the price paid for bringing about Gilad’s freedom, and it pressured the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to go along and accommodate the wishes of its citizens.

It is impossible to assess the exact damage affected by the high price paid for Shalit’s freedom. The next Israeli victims, killed or kidnapped as a consequence of the deal are not yet known; they are not, and may never become family members in most Israeli households.

Their tragedy will indeed cause pain—a short-lived one, but by and large these victims will not benefit from a campaign designed to elevate emotional sentiments over logical reasoning.

These victims will become anonymous statistics shortly after they lose their lives.  And consequently, most Israelis will never comprehend the repercussions fueled by the Shalit deal.