Frimet Roth (one of this site's co-bloggers) has an op-ed today on the YNet site. YNet is the electronic edition of Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper
Murderers Belong in Prison
Releasing terrorists not the only way to secure Gilad Shalit's release
I know the pain Gilad Shalit's parents are enduring. This is no empty platitude; my child was murdered by Hamas terrorists six years ago.
Obtaining Gilad's release must be a top priority for our government. Sadly, myriad other matters - political, personal and very trivial - have garnered far more attention from Olmert and his cabinet than the Shalits' ordeal has.
What might have been done? Rather than sit and wait for Hamas' latest prisoner release list to be deposited on his desk, Olmert could have spent the past year pro-actively laboring for Gilad's freedom. He could have created his own ultimatums for Hamas. Cutting off any one of the basic services that Israel has been providing Gaza and then conditioning its reconnection on Gilad's release is a tactic that many experts have suggested. Why hasn't it been tried?
Many advocates of a prisoner-release cave-in argue that all of the terrorists' demands must be met in order to return Gilad and Goldwasser and Regev. That no price is too high to pay for a soldier's freedom.
But do they mean what they say?
Imagine that Hamas announced its willingness to hand back Shalit with this condition: that Israel first execute one Israeli citizen, perhaps, a senile eighty-year-old or a person with a terminal illness. Would we comply? Would we weigh the value of the two lives at stake?
In releasing convicted Palestinian murderers, Israel is weighing the lives of the innocent victims of future attacks attacks by the terrorists to be released against Gilad's life. Nobody is worthy of making such determinations and nobody should presume to be.
2 questions for MK Levy
Fortunately, we are relieved of that moral burden. Israeli society is endowed with an impartial, respected judicial system. It tries murderers without regard for political considerations. When it sentences someone to several consecutive life sentences, clearly the equivalent of execution in some democratic countries, its decision must be respected by all citizens. Including by our prime minister.
Knesset member Yitzhak Levy is a bereaved parent whose daughter was murdered, like mine was, by Palestinian terrorists. In a letter to the prime minister last week, Levy said the only way to release Arab terrorists from prison was by expelling them from Israel entirely. His letter reminded the prime minister that "we have seen several times that prisoners who are released in various deals return to their evil ways and take active part in terrorist activity". He, therefore, urged the government to make humanitarian assistance to Gaza contingent upon Gilad's release. However, he concluded that a mass prisoner release "could be reasonable" with the abovementioned proviso of banishment.
I have two questions for Knesset Member Levy:
1. Who will guarantee that the prisoners remain in the countries that Levy would select as their homes? Hamas? The very same terror group committed in word and deed to wiping Israel off the map? The very same people who could not honor ceasefires signed with fellow Palestinians for more than several hours? Or Egypt? The neighbor that has been permitting the free flow of weapons into Gaza through the Rafah crossing ever since Israel left Gaza?
2. What will prevent these mass murderers from engaging in terrorism in any land other than Gaza or the West Bank?
I admire Levy's courage and sincerity. But the implication in his statements - both written and in interviews - is that he is resigned to a release that he actually opposes. Is surrender our only course? Isn't it time we voice our disgust with this government's handling of the Shalit affair?
'State under caution'
Our society is fraying at the edges. In a recent graduation address to Bar Ilan University law students, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz issued the following dire assessment of our state: We are being led by public figures under investigation, leaders prevented from carrying out their duties. This crisis is leading us to "national depression." There is "no king in Israel" he continued. "Every man does what he sees fit."
He referred to Israel as a "state under caution." Can a state with such precarious standing determine that convicted mass murderers be rewarded for their atrocities with a ticket to freedom and to a new life? How will the knowledge that court sentences are so easily dispensable influence potential murderers?
MK Levy's message concluded: "I am not driven by vengeance, and Gilad's return home is more important than holding any Palestinian prisoner." This suggests that a refusal to release prisoners with "blood on their hands" emanates from a lust for revenge. Which misses the point entirely. The trial, conviction and imprisonment of murderers has little if anything to do with vengeance. It serves to punish criminals, to deter those considering crimes and to protect the non-criminal public from victimization. Trampling those vital safeguards spells doom.
Prime Minister Olmert has fought tooth and nail to retain his office. It is time for him to demonstrate some prime ministerial initiative in winning Shalit's return home.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem who frequently contributes articles dealing with terrorism and with special-needs children. She and her husband founded and run (as unpaid volunteers) the Malki Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org) in their daughter's memory. The foundation provides concrete support for Israeli families of all religions who care at home for a special-needs child.