Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The Value of a Single Israeli Soldier
The Talmud, a record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, says “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed the entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved the entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)
Every Israeli soldier knows that, if captured, his nation will move mountains to secure his return. It’s not just a slogan. It’s a reality.
Since 1982 Israel has engaged in eight such swaps, the latest being the release of Gilad Shalit, kidnapped five years ago and denied the most basic rights as defined by international law. Hamas even refused to permit visits by representatives of the Red Cross.
Since 1982, more than 10,000 Palestinians serving prison sentences for terrorist and other hostile actions have been released. In 1983, more than 4,500 Palestinians prisoners were swapped for six Israeli soldiers being held in southern Lebanon. In 1985, 1,150 prisoners were exchanged for three Israelis.
The value that Israeli places on its soldiers includes even casualties of war. In 2008, it released Samir Kuntar, convicted of murdering four Israelis in 1979, plus four Hezbollah fighters in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers seized during a cross-border raid.
The swap for Shalit, also the victim of a cross-border raid, demonstrates a fundamental difference between the Israelis and their enemies. They believe that each of their soldiers is more valuable than those who war against them.
Naturally, the most recent swap evoked a wide range of views. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum welcomed Shalit’s reunion with his family as did thousands of Israelis, but said that “joy is tempered by the bitter realities of statecraft” calling the Israeli policy “the sentimentalization of strategy.” He thought the swap “poison(ed) the future” for Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu disagreed. “As a leader who sends IDF soldiers every day to defend Israeli citizens, I believe that mutual responsibility is not just a slogan, but one of the foundations of our existence here.”
Netanyahu knows that Arabs have been kidnapping and ransoming people for the whole of Islam’s 1400 years and that it was standard practice among the desert tribes where the religion first took root. Islam is based on the promise of paradise for its adherents when they die; particularly its jihadist warriors.
Bill Levinson, writing about the swap, had perhaps the best interpretation of what occurred. He referred to the famous Chinese tract, Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”, suggesting that “Hamas might have played squarely into the hands of the Mossad and/or Shin Bet”, Israel’s highly effective and feared intelligence agencies.
“Israel might have just planted 50, 100, or even more double agents among the Palestinians who will cooperate, for example, in setting up Hamas terrorists to be killed or locating Palestinian rocket batteries for destruction whenever Israel considers this necessary.”
Sun Tzu wrote, “The enemy’s spies who have come to spy upon us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become converted spies and available for our service.”
Had the Israelis merely released one or a few prisoners their return would evoke suspicion, but with more than a thousand such prisoners it will prove impossible for Hamas to know which among them are double agents.
No people survive more than three thousand years against the greatest of odds and a multitude of enemies without learning a few lessons along the way. Hamas will pay the price in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
© Alan Caruba, 2011