Israel's Mistaken Prisoner Exchange Policy Must End to Prevent Future Disasters

Every such release brings about more disasters. The only way to prevent other Israeli families from this never-ending torment is to forbid such releases.

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Tens of thousands Israelis attend the joint funeral of the three abducted teens, July 1, 2014.
Tens of thousands Israelis attend the joint funeral of the three abducted teens, July 1, 2014.Credit: Gil Cohen Magen
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

The ability of the three bereaved families to accept God’s decrees, which stems from their incredible faith, makes every heart tremble. Their conduct now is a continuation of the incredible spirit they displayed during the nightmare they’ve gone through since their sons were kidnapped on June 12 and then found murdered on Tuesday.

Accepting God’s actions is a matter of the family’s private faith and their spiritual circles, both near and far. Such righteous acceptance, though, is only fitting for acts of heaven, not for “sins of the community,” or those among us who bear some indirect responsibility for the tragedy.

The “them,” whose rotten deeds are causing us pain at the moment, are many, and well-known. Their illogical, irresponsible behavior, has been the focus of our prime ministers, who of course are ultimately responsible.

To prevent such disasters in the future, we must prosecute these people — within the bounds of morality, of course, we have no other way — to the fullest extent of the law.

But even those who preached caution, who tried meekly to fight the spirit that gripped the people and their leaders, even they aren’t free of responsibility. Their efforts weren’t effective. Therefore, this statement isn’t an exaggeration: Our hands too, spilled this blood. Even we must feel guilty that we didn’t knock on every door, didn’t gather as many people as possible to protest in the streets, didn’t push back against the unending lies of false prophets and didn’t lend enough support to those ministers who opposed disastrous prisoner exchanges. We didn’t have the courage to go out to fight against prime ministers who had succumbed to the populism of the streets.

Worry for the boys’ fate engulfed most of people, in the Diaspora, too. Their families’ incredible, honorable conduct certainly contributed. Now, they call on us to remain united. They have the full moral right to ask for one national consensus: Never release terrorists in exchange for kidnapping victims. That is the lesson being cried out by their loved ones’ graves. Every such release brings about more disasters. The only way to prevent other Israeli families from this never-ending torment is to forbid such releases.

Uri Yifrah, Eyal’s father, said during the funeral in Elad, “We have love, and it will overcome.” It’s sad to say, but love, in this part of the world, isn’t overcoming. It certainly isn’t overcoming murderous terror.

Almost every government and security official is trying to pick some kind of lesson out of the kidnapping and the ensuing tragedy. From what they’re publishing, it seems they’re concerned with tactics. It’s obligatory that we change our conduct guidelines at call centers and cut back on the extravagant conditions for murderous terrorists in prison. And certainly, those released in the 2011 deal to free Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit should be sent back to rot in jail.

But the real changes necessary are conceptual ones. We must completely change our approach to those who stand over us and plot our destruction. If they’re destroying each other in Syria and Iraq, why wouldn’t they do it to us too, if given the chance?

These changes in perception must be made while the public is still mired in mourning over what happened. If we wait, we’ll revert back to our daily grinds and the pressures of our everyday lives. Until the next disaster. Then once again we’ll hear poetic eulogies, like those uttered by the president and the prime minister at the cemetery in Modi’in.

The mistaken policy that led to this disaster must — and can — be changed.

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