Force Has Lost Its Might

We sat in the sukkah that our grandchildren had built and decorated. We watched the tape together, and the little children asked if Gilad had come back.

Sukkot is a festive occasion - "the time of our joy." Even the video made us happy despite everything, because there is no joy like removing doubt. There is no more doubt - and there was doubt beforehand - that Gilad Shalit is alive and well and appears healthy, physically. But there is no need to call on experts - those who understand body language and the mind - to know that after more than three years in captivity, the prisoner is suffering and disintegrating psychologically. We told the children that he has yet to return, but he is on his way home. What else can we say to children who are waiting for a guest on the eve of a holiday?

The tape removed our doubts, but Gilad must finally be freed. We are tired of the flowery platitudes that have washed over the country these past two days: "The child who belongs to us all," "The State of Israel will do everything," and all the other diagnoses of his emotional state.

All this has happened while our hearts break, cry out in sadness and horror, and go out to the long-lost son and his family. Now our hearts have one obligation: to name the price, which is known and has been set for a while now, and which may also rise if the evasion continues. Whoever vociferously demands the freedom of a captive soldier and says one thing, yet is evasive in naming the price he is willing to pay and believes another, is simply paying lip service and nothing more.

I looked up and gazed beyond the sukkah toward the open, vast heavens, whose gates are supposed to be locked shut beginning next week. For a moment I was consumed with joy. In the exchange deal, Israel brought happiness to the homes of Palestinian families while Palestinians brought happiness to the home of one big Israeli family - our boy is still alive. Even if this isn't complete happiness, at least it represents a great hope.

If we once thought - and some people still think - that what cannot be achieved through force can be achieved through even more force, today we are receiving a bitter lesson: What has not been obtained through force can be obtained through less force and dialogue.

Even our prime minister characterized the swap - proof of life in exchange for 20 prisoners - as "a confidence-building step" in the run-up to future deals. There is no other choice. We must talk with those who are ready to talk either directly or, as things stand now, with the help of an emissary. That is how confidence is ultimately built.

It is impossible to free Gilad Shalit through force, just as it is impossible to suppress Iran's insane designs solely through force, just as it is impossible to win in Iraq and Afghanistan through military force alone.

If the tyrants from North Korea and Myanmar soon come to the negotiating table, there is a chance the Taliban will also talk, since they don't have many other choices. Force has lost its strength, and that is not a pacifist comment but a realistic one.