How far would you go to save your child?
What rules would you break? What deals with the devil would a parent broker in order to save the life of their child?
What happens when the "parent" is a country? What about when the "child" is Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June of 2006 while on-duty on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, the soldier still being held hostage somewhere in Hamasland?
Israel is now faced with making one of the most emotionally-laden decisions in the country's history. Israel is now faced with making one of the most politically-laden decisions in the country's history. Israel is now faced with making one of the most historically-laden decisions in the country's history. And it is all the same decision.
Hamas is promising to release the Israeli soldier to Israel if Israel releases a long list of Palestinians now serving time in Israeli prisons. If it were a mathematical decision, the equation would be simple. One man for many men. If only it were that simple. The many men Hamas is asking for, nay demanding, are terrorists - men captured by Israeli soldiers, tried in Israeli courts and convicted by Israeli judges for committing acts of terror.
For years, the mantra of Israeli governments - left, right and center - has been: we will not negotiate with terrorists, we will not release terrorists with blood on their hands.
For years, Israeli parents have sent off their prized possessions, their sons and now their daughters to proudly serve in the Israeli Defense Forces with the knowledge that their military will never leave an Israeli soldier behind, that their military will do everything possible to seek the return of their child, that there will always be a grave at which to mourn.
The exceptions to that rule have been few, mostly because the whereabouts of the soldiers are not known, because no government or terrorist group has offered to broker a deal on their behalf. The most notable exception is Ron Arad, left behind and captured by the enemy during the tenure of Yitzhak Rabin, not as prime minister but as military chief of staff. Associates close to Rabin have said that he lamented and regretted the decision not to do everything in the IDF's power to get back their soldier. We will never know for sure, Rabin was felled by another type of terrorist, an Israeli who now sits in prison with no hope of release. And Ron Arad has become an Israeli icon.
Israel is not Great Britain. Tony Blair made his decision and now his sailors and marines are back home. He said that his country has a policy of not dealing with terrorists and then sent his Consul General in Jerusalem to meet with Hamas Prime Minister Hanniyeh to try to secure the release of the captives. And then he said to heck with policy and pressure and met the demands of the captors. But again, Israel is not Great Britain.
So far, Israel has not negotiated with terrorist groups and Israel has not met with terrorists. They get their soldiers back through third party negotiators. The Hamas list has come to Israel through Egypt. The very existence of the list proves that there has been significant progress in the negotiations, hopefully, there will be continued progress. It is a slow process.
The standout name on the list is Marwan Barghoutti, head of the Al Aqsa brigade. Barghoutti, even while sitting in an Israeli prison, is the most popular person in the entire Palestinian Authority. When Yasser Arafat was alive, he was the second most popular person. And boy, oh boy, does Barghoutti have blood on his hands.
The price that Israel is being asked to pay in order to bring back one son to his parents, in order to return one soldier to his nation is astronomically high. Before Barghoutti can be freed, before he is released from Israelis prison, he must be given a presidential pardon - that means publicly, legally decreeing that the murders Marwan Barghoutti committed were not really murders.
Releasing the terrorists on the Hamas list means releasing the murderers of those people directly responsible for the deaths of the sons and daughters, the mothers and fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the teachers and doctors and friends and playmates of other Israelis. It means releasing the people responsible for crippling, maiming, paralyzing, scarring, destroying the lives and taking away the livelihoods of other Israelis. It means disregarding the acts of heroism performed by member of Israel's armed forces and the loss of life sustained by Israel's armed forces in tracking and capturing those terrorists. It means reneging on a promise made to all Israelis.
And it means invalidating the judicial system that put these people in prison.
We now live in an era of kidnapping. Survival skills and rules have not yet been codified.