Downtown is closed off, and it looks like half the country is there. So’s my wife, Ilana, who as a soldier’s mother identifies completely with Shalit’s mother. Give Hamas whatever they want, just get the boy home.
As much empathy as I feel for the Shalit family, I can’t agree with that call. As the father of a soldier (two, as of the end of this month), I fear that these well-meaning demonstrators are unwittingly placing my boys in danger. Caving in to Hamas’s demands will reinforce an incentive to kidnap soldiers that, following previous deals, is already too strong. The message is: got demands? Kidnap an IDF serviceman and we’ll give you whatever you want (eventually, after talking tough for a few years).
I’ve written elsewhere that, were my son a prisoner in Hamas’s clutches, I’d be demanding the same thing that Shalit’s parents are demanding. But my son isn’t a hostage, and I don’t want to see him end up as one.
I suspect that the deal will be done. This upwelling of citizen passion cannot be ignored in a democracy like ours–and thank God we live in a country where the public has power. But it’s ironic, and unfortunate, that we free prisoners only when our enemies have our hands pinned behind our backs.
I’ve long advocated freeing prisoners in the framework of confidence-building measures in a peace process–even prisoners who have murdered Israelis. Freeing prisoners in a peace process is a sign of strength–the message is “we’re strong and confident enough that we can make this gesture toward our enemies.” Freeing hundreds of prisoners, including vile murderers, in exchange for a hostage, is a sign of weakness–the message is “we can’t handle this.”
My heart goes out to the Shalit family and to every demonstrating mother, father, friend, and supporter. But, sorry, I can’t be with you.