'Proposed Shalit Deal - Immoral'

Prof. Aumann said that the ransom demanded by Hamas for the return of IDF soldier Shalit would be both contrary to Jewish morality and ineffective.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Professor Yisrael Aumann at Hebrew U.
Professor Yisrael Aumann at Hebrew U.
photo: file

Prof. Yisrael (Robert) Aumann said that agreeing to the ransom demanded by Hamas for the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit - the release of over 1,000 imprisoned Arab terrorists - would be both contrary to Jewish
Prof. Aumann was clearly emotionally distraught during his remarks.
morality and ineffective according to Game Theory, the research field in which the professor won a Nobel Prize in 2005.

Choking back tears at several points, Prof. Aumann was clearly emotionally distraught during his remarks before the Jewish Statesmanship Center For Strategic Planning (JSC) on Wednesday evening. His lecture focused on the morality of ransoming Jewish captives held by terrorist gangs, with specific emphasis on the Shalit case. Cpl. Shalit was kidnapped from a military base near Gaza over two years ago, in an attack that also killed two IDF soldiers. Negotiations for his release, mediated by Egypt, have broken down several times over Hamas demands that 1,500 terrorists - many of whom were directly involved in murdering Israeli civilians - go free in exchange for the kidnapped Israeli.

Aumann, whose son fell in battle during Israel's 1982 Peace for Galilee War, said that despite a deep identification with the pain felt by Shalit's family, paying the ransom demanded by the PA terrorists would be immoral. It was likely to cost Israel a greater price in human lives both through encouraging future kidnappers and through the acts of terrorism the released prisoners are likely to commit. Past experience shows that most prematurely-released terrorists return to lives of violence, once back in their home environment.

"I say the following things with awe and humility, with fear and trembling," began Prof. Aumann tearfully, "but they are things that need to be said." He went on to quote a statement made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak several days ago that public demonstrations over the negotiations for Shalit's release "do not contribute to reaching the goal and, to the contrary, distance the attainment of that goal." In response, Aumann continued reading, "the father [of Gilad] said that in Israel, redemption of captives is a supreme value." He sees himself as on the side of both Barak and Noam Shalit, Aumann said, "but the Defense Minister is correct."

Referring to passages from the Talmud discussing the matter, Aumann went on to explain that "the supreme value is not the redemption of captives. The supreme value is that there not be any captives. ...If the redemption of one captive will lead to three captives taken in the future, not to mention ten fatalities or more and dozens of wounded, then we have missed the mark. And then, it would be forbidden to redeem the single captive. Yes, forbidden."

Aumann's position on the ransom of captives is based not only on his understanding of rabbinical sources, but on his expertise in Game Theory. The analysis of the situation according to Game Theory, Aumann explained, coincided with the position of the sages of the Talmud and Maimonides, who determined that a captive should not be redeemed for more than his or her worth, in order to assure a functioning society.

'We Brought This Upon Ourselves'
"We have brought ourselves to this depressing situation," Prof. Aumann said of the ransom demands made by Hamas and the Lebanese Hizbullah. "We ourselves raised the cost. And the cost here is not in money, the cost is in souls, in
The supreme value is not the redemption of captives. The supreme value is that there not be any captives.
fatalities, in wounded and in additional captives."

Aumann acknowledged that the Shalit family is acting as any family would in seeking all paths to obtain the release of their son, Gilad. "My claim is against our government," the professor said, "the government which brought us last summer the grotesque, shameful and criminally negligent exchange of murderous terrorists for dead bodies." In a deal reached between Israel and the Hizbullah in July of this year, the terror organization returned the bodies of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for five Arab terrorists held in Israeli jails, as well as 199 terrorists' remains.

"Where were you then, Mr. Barak?" Prof. Aumann asked rhetorically. "Did you not understand that you were making the return of a live soldier to his family more remote, perhaps with no practical possibility to attain that goal? This cycle of terror has to come to an end. We must think about the future, not just about the present."

The Jewish Statesmanship Center For Strategic Planning is located in Kedumim, in the center of Samaria. It is an elite non-profit institution, aimed at creating an alternative, ideologically based intellectual and political leadership for the state of Israel. The center seeks to create a new national agenda, based on Jewish sources and what they see as "the historic mission of the Jewish nation."