It would have been easy to believe the prime minister yesterday. He said Israel had made Hamas a far-reaching offer, but Hamas was unwilling to compromise. He said we have red lines, we are not a defeated nation that submits to dictates.
Noam Shalit did believe Ehud Olmert. He said Olmert told him he is not giving up, but will continue to work for the release of Noam's son Gilad. In fact, Noam has believed Olmert from the start. He believed that if he allowed Olmert to conduct quiet negotiations and did not interfere by staging noisy demonstrations, Olmert would conclude an agreement and Gilad would come home.
But the quiet did not help. No one has been stopping Olmert from closing a deal during the past three years. He did not do so because he was never prepared to pay the necessary price.
It is not enough to say you are in favor of freeing Shalit and are working toward this every day. Because behind all the fine words there is a price, and if you are not willing to pay it, then in reality, you oppose freeing Shalit.
The price achieved by Ofer Dekel, after exhaustive negotiations, is a reasonable one - 450 heavyweight prisoners. The worst we have. This price is reasonable because it is not a strategic price. It does not undermine our strength or our existence. It will not change the balance of power between us and them.
Hamas did not demand an immediate withdrawal from the territories. It did not demand an end to the siege of Gaza. Nor did it demand that the army cease its aerial assaults.
Instead, it demanded a prisoner exchange. And that is reasonable. Because that is how every war ends, and because Israel has always released hundreds and thousands of prisoners in exchange for a mere handful. After all, we currently hold some 12,000 prisoners, while they have only one. Yet they are not demanding that we exchange all 12,000 for him.
Therefore, Noam Shalit must wake up. He must understand that he lives in a cynical, aggressive world filled with political interests and public relations. It is a world in which if you do not cry out to heaven and overturn the tables, you will not get anything done.
Olmert talks about the damage of releasing the 125 murderers he is unwilling to free. But what about the price of leaving Gilad in captivity? Leaving him to die in shackles like Ron Arad actually carries a heavy strategic price. It will destroy society from within. Soldiers will think twice about whether to serve in a combat unit, and everyone will talk about how the unwritten contract between the state and its soldiers has been violated.
Olmert said yesterday that "the value that unites Israeli society is the value of mutual responsibility." Does he not realize that he himself is undermining this important value?
Therefore, Noam Shalit must not give in. He must remain in his protest tent even after Olmert leaves office and pressure Benjamin Netanyahu - until Netanyahu understands the true and painful meaning of "mutual responsibility."
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