shalit - AFP - October 12 2011
Aviva Shalit Photo by AFP
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There are many very good reasons to oppose the deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. They include the fact that the deal is a surrender by Israel to terror; that it will spur Hamas on and weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It will empower extremists in the Arab world and in Palestine. It will increase the risk of Israeli soldiers being kidnapped in the not-too-distant future. It will increase the danger that a wave of terror will rock Israel.

The deal will strengthen the feeling that sensitivity to human life is Israel's Achilles' heel. The deal will renew the image of Israel as a power encumbered by cobwebs. The deal that saves the life of Gilad Shalit could cost the lives of many Israelis whose names and faces we do not yet know.

And yet, there is one decisive reason to support the deal: Israeli solidarity.

Israel's main asset in human and security terms is the sense of mutual responsibility that its citizens and soldiers feel toward one another.

Without this feeling, there is no meaning to our lives here. Without this feeling, we have neither army, security nor the ability to protect ourselves. Rightly or not, Shalit has become a symbol of mutual responsibility. And therefore his upcoming release will not only be the redemption of a captive and the saving of the life and the return home of a son. Shalit's release will be the realization of Israeli solidarity.

It is unclear what exactly prompted the prime minister and the defense minister to do what they did over they past few weeks regarding Shalit. This exorbitant price could have been paid a year or two years ago. The red lines could have been crossed right after the government came into office.

Apparently Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak were prompted to act determinedly at this specific time by motives that are not especially gladdening.

The two apparently realized that there will be no diplomatic, economic or social breakthrough here in the coming year. They understood that security could decline in the year to come. They recognized that they are under strategic, political and public siege, and the Shalit front is the only one in which they can chalk up an achievement and engender any kind of hope. And so Netanyahu and Barak stormed the Shalit front, giving it everything they had. Right or not, justified or not, these two former officers of the elite reconnaissance unit conquered their target.

In the coming weeks, Israel will be enveloped in euphoria. The thrilling pictures broadcast from Shalit's home community of Mitzpeh Hila will push out the threatening pictures from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. People will feel that with Shalit's return, we have returned to ourselves. Older people will weep, younger people will celebrate, the social protest will be forgotten.

And yet, the world around us will see things differently. Even our allies will find it difficult to understand us. Sooner or later, Shalit's pictures will be replaced by pictures of others, and so only in a few years will we be able to know who was right at yesterday's cabinet meeting and who was wrong. Only with time will we know what the proper balance was between what was correct and what was dangerous in the deal to release Shalit.

But until history has its say, we can all rejoice. We will rejoice with Gilad's parents, Noam and Aviva Shalit, and with his grandfather, Zvi. We will rejoice with Gilad, the heartbreaking boy Gilad, the son that became a son to all of us, and who is finally returning home.