I have written previously why I think the price Israel is being asked to pay for the liberation of its kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been languishing in Hamas captivity for five years, is too high to pay (here and here).
In recent weeks, the public campaign being waged against Israel’s government to “liberate” Shalit has intensified. His brother interrupted the Independence Day ceremony; his parents have chained themselves in front of the Prime Minister’s home; and in the last 24 hours, minor celebrities have each spent an hour each inside a make-believe prison cell, to better “feel” what Gilad is feeling.
I have no complaints to the Shalit family. Hillel the Elder wisely said: “do not judge your fellow man until you reach his place.”
But I fail to comprehend the advisors behind the “free Gilad Shalit” campaign.
Everything in life has a price. The rarer the thing, the higher the price. Hamas have only one Gilad Shalit, and his price is very high. Israel has thousands of Palestinian prisoners and their price is very cheap. The government is correctly refusing to make a deal that exacts too high a price. What this campaign is achieving is raising the price even more. Hamas sees Israeli society unable to withstand the pain of one abducted soldier and directing its anger against its government (instead of at Hamas!), and rightly deduces that keeping the asset in their clutches will only exact a higher price in the future. So what the campaign is achieving is exactly the opposite of what it set out to do: by raising the price in the eyes of Hamas, it is making it even harder for the Israeli government to reach a deal.
The Israeli government is not the one that should be pressured. It is Hamas that should be put under pressure. International government and organisations should be constantly reminded of Gilad Shalit: of how he is being treated in captivity compared with how Palestinian prisoners are being treated in Israel; of how Hamas refuses any visits from the Red Cross; of how Hamas is cynically exploiting this “asset”. The more pressure Hamas is put under internationally, the more likely it will reduce the price, and hence the more likely Israel will be able to accept a deal.
Another wise man (this time a Christian) once said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is time for the people behind this misguided public campaign to realise their current ways are decreasing, rather than increasing, the chances of freeing Gilad.