An exorbitant price
Public opinion has also contributed to the terrorists' wholesale release.
If anyone had doubts, they have been removed, and the sympathy is with the families, as it has been all along. But the country has no reason to be proud of what happened yesterday. This was no way to fulfill our duty and bring home the boys - by letting a terrorist organization string us along, right up to the last second.
But Israel is not acting like a sovereign state in almost every way. It agreed, as Hezbollah predicted, to make this humiliating and exorbitantly expensive deal.
Hassan Nasrallah, defense and media people said yesterday, has difficulty reading Israeli society. It is hard to believe that this evaluation was made on the day Hezbollah's leader brought Israel to its knees, precisely because he knows it so well.
We are a moral society, former Israel Air Force commander Eitan Ben Eliyahu provided as an excuse - that is why we always pay high prices.
A moral society doesn't let terrorists abuse it. A moral society doesn't give in to immoral extortion and doesn't pay a price that endangers the future of its soldiers and civilians, while sowing the seeds for the next abductions and ensuing concessions. A strong moral society - as we still are - teaches the kidnappers a lesson and leads them to the painful conclusion that kidnapping doesn't pay.
The media in a balanced, moral and self-respecting society act with restraint. They don't inflame the already difficult situation and don't exert unbearable pressure on the public and decision-makers, by constantly, sometimes manipulatively, externalizing the feelings of the abducted soldiers' families and friends. Nor do they bring the viewers and listeners to such an emotional upheaval that results in undermining national endurance. Yesterday we saw yet again the consequences of this debilitating campaign.
"Returning the abducted soldiers is above all else," said Ami Ayalon, as the black coffins were being broadcast. With these wise words - as Hamas watched, documented and enjoyed - a minister, general and former Shin Bet head told Hamas how Israel would act in the Gilad Shalit deal as well. Instead of warning Hamas leaders that if, God forbid, anything happened to Gilad his blood will be on their hands, he encouraged the abductors to raise the price for Shalit's release, by telling them that the issue of the abducted soldiers is "above everything else." Hamas, in Lebanon and Gaza, quickly declared that it would do so.
And after all Hezbollah has done to us, even the prime minister did not declare that Israel would not stand for another extortion and would change tack in the Shalit case. Not even in response to Ismail Haniyeh's extortive statement that Shalit would only be returned "for the full price." Nor did he warn us that until Shalit's release the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Haniyeh's organization, Hamas, would be hostage to his safety.
This is how prime ministers of sovereign states that are responsible for their people's safety speak and act. This is how they make the kidnappings stop.
Retroactively, never mind the price Israel paid for the abducted soldiers. But what made the media yesterday continue to squeeze emotions ad nauseum?
Why magnify the event out of all proportion and broadcast from every point possible, repeating a thousand times trivia and cliches? One would expect the media, at least in the difficult hours during which Hezbollah played with the families and public's feelings, to show a little restraint, to stop externalizing feelings unnecessarily and to refrain from invading privacy and creating a national drama.
After all, the ending of the next chapter, the Shalit deal, could be - if the media keep hurtling with no brakes - much more difficult and expensive than the sad ending of the Regev and Goldwasser deal.
Not only prime ministers and ministers, the deciders, will go down in history as those responsible for the bitter consequences of the terrorists' wholesale release. Public opinion, which supported the releases over the years, despite warnings that many of the released men would once again murder soldiers and civilians, is also a partner.