Not Every Kidnapped Person Is a Prince

We must welcome every captive, every kidnapped person, alive or dead, whom the Israeli government succeeds in bringing back from the enemy.

We must, of course, welcome every captive, every kidnapped person, alive or dead, whom the Israeli government succeeds in bringing back from the enemy. We should also welcome the fact that we are not forced to go to war again to bring back kidnapped soldiers. It turns out it's also possible to conduct negotiations.

Moreover, after Israel went to war against Hezbollah last summer to bring back kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, another important lesson should be noted: The excuse that we must not pay whatever price necessary to bring back captives is no longer valid. Because when the government decides it is allowed to endanger the citizens living in the North in the name of some sacred goal, the claim that Israel's security is endangered by releasing prisoners in an exchange for kidnapped soldiers loses its validity.

What is particularly infuriating is the self-righteousness that claims Israel does everything possible to bring back its captives. It does everything subject to the trade rules of honor: Going to war is defending one's honor. Releasing prisoners into the hands of Hamas to achieve a similar goal is surrender, until it turns out that Hassan Nasrallah will receive a similar payment. More serious, it seems that honor has personal price tags.

If we search for the name of Gabriel Dawit on Google or in the newspaper archives during the period before his body was returned, we won't find a thing.

There is not even a mention of his disappearance or drowning. We can imagine the public uproar if the government declared it was ready to pay a total of 435 prisoners for him, as it paid in exchange for the release of Elhanan Tennenbaum and the bodies of the three kidnapped soldiers from Har Dov.

Not because of the high price, but because of the "anonymous" compensation. After all, who is Dawit, for whom Israel is endangering its prestige? It's enough to see what nationalist stomach cramps seized a large part of the public when it became clear the price that had to be paid for Gilad Shalit alive to understand that it is not always the size of the payment that is the measure, but whom we get for it.

What excuses the government scattered about when it tried to explain that it is forbidden to release so many prisoners, certainly not those with blood on their hands, not to mention Hamas members. As though the government would release Fatah members more easily, and as though it makes any difference whom they are releasing.

But let's say that miraculously another page from Ron Arad's diary were to be discovered, or an item of his clothing, or another object, and in exchange Hezbollah or Iran were to demand a few more prisoners. Would anyone dare to object? Would anyone cry out about Israel's deterrence capability? After all it's Arad, not Dawit or Tennenbaum or Shalit.

Because Ron Arad, after 21 years of being missing, has a unique status. To the point where it would be heresy and unpatriotic to say there is no longer any chance of finding him or bringing him back alive or dead, and that he should be included in the list of soldiers whose grave is unknown.

Arad is a national asset as long as he is missing. So much so, says a source formerly involved in negotiations with Hezbollah, that the effort to find Arad or information about him "turned the other kidnapped soldiers into hostages of information about Arad."

He was not being critical. He was only explaining that as long as Israel stuck to a package deal that always included any scrap of information about Arad, it was difficult to take apart the components of the package until the Tennenbaum deal came along.

This time, too, or at least that's the impression one gets from Nasrallah's words that he has no additional information about Arad. Everything has been told.

One can believe him or not. But is the government allowed to continue holding Samir Kuntar if his release will enable the return of Regev and Goldwasser, even if by doing so Israel will give up its last bargaining chip on the issue of Arad, a chip that has not helped it until now?

Will the hierarchy of prestige continue to determine the order of priorities in releasing the kidnapped?