A normal country and a wise nation seeks leaders who tell the truth - not those who speak to the people in populist slogans, cliches, double-speak and only what the public wants to hear. Unfortunately, we do not have an abundance of such leaders. One of the reasons that the public esteemed Yitzhak Rabin so highly was that even if they disagreed with his way and his policies, they knew that Rabin, in his rough and sometimes even rude style, told the people the truth, even if it was hard to hear.
Last Thursday a senior political figure, who is running for prime minister, stood up and told the nation the truth about kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Tzipi Livni stressed that they are making and will continue to make every effort to bring Gilad home, but added a sentence that was clearly the whole truth and nothing but the truth: "It is not always possible to bring everyone home."
Thus Livni, with admirable courage, faced off against the emotional, populist, irresponsible public discourse. In this way she also expressed the feelings and stance of many of Israel's citizens. This people deserves leaders who do not speak to them in hair-splitting and evasive formulas, but rather tell them the truth with no window dressing.
"The movement for the liberation of Gilad Shalit," under the patronage of the irresponsible and rating-hungry media, crossed red lines, damaged Shalit's cause and his chances of return, and worst of all, it is poisoning the public atmosphere and doing harm to our strength as a nation. Were Hamas not certain that internal Israeli pressure would force the government to accept all its demands, Shalit may have been home a long time ago.
These people demand that the government act to bring Shalit back, deviously ignoring and evading the question of the cost. They let loose with baseless slogans, like "the return of prisoners is a supreme value." That is not the case. The liberation of captives is an important value in Judaism, and the knowledge that the state will spare no effort to return a captured soldier is an important component of our national ethos. But both must meet the test of, and be balanced against, other no less important values, among them deterrance, standing up against bitter enemies and the fact that the lives of many might be endangered by giving in to Hamas' inflated demands.
Those who disagree with Livni propose that Israel knuckle under to all of Hamas' demands and release 1,000 terrorists, including 450 murderers, among them dangerous ones with the blood of more than 1,000 Jews on their hands. The truth must be told. Israel has come a long, hard way with regard to the Hamas list of prisoners, and is at the end of its rope. Giving in to all Hamas demands will be a harsh defeat for Israel, with disastrous consequences. This must not be allowed to happen.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.
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