Gilad Shalit

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

These past few days I’ve been watching “John Adams”, HBO’s TV series about the life of the 2nd president. In chapter 5 President George Washington consults Adams on the signing of the Jay’s Treaty, which secured the US nutralitie in the war between Great Britain and revolutionary France.

As they discuss the issue, the president and the vice president look outside the window on the mob demanding the United State will take side with the newly formed French Republic. The “nice” thing to do was to help France, which fought with the US in its war against the British. Washington decided not to. And in chapter 6 we learn that Adams’ unpopular refusal to let the Quasy-War deteriorate into a full-scale one with France has cost him his re-election.

I don’t know how accurate the series is, but its creators have recognized what makes the difference between a good politician and a good leader  – the leader’s ability to rise above the moment and “do the right thing”. Nothing else matters. He can change his mind regarding things he said during his campaign, not keep his promises and even lie. As long as when the moment comes, he does what’s right.

In Israeli politics right now, this right thing would be to approve the prisoners exchange deal with Hamas, and get Gilad Shalit back home.

There are good arguments against the deal; that it will encorage more kidnapping, that it makes no sense that in exchnage for one person Israel will hand over hundreds, and that these people might go back to killing Israeli civilians. But there is a bigger issue here.

The state of Israel sent Shalit to Gaza. We just can’t, as a sociaty, decide not to bring him back, just because the price is too high. Socaity is not held together because of calculations about future damages – terrible as those may be. What holds it together are its values and its members’ mutual responsibility towards one another. Yes, the release of Hamas people might put Israeli life at risk – but some questions are larger than life.

The political price for the deal will be terrible for the PM and his cabinet. Even many of those supporting it will change their mind, or claim that we could have gotten a better arrangment. That’s what happened the last time, and the one before. The politicains know this, and they are afraid. But sometimes you just have to pay the price, and hope that maybe history will judge you better.

(For the same reason I think that Israel should have done more – a lot more – for the release of Jonathan Polard).  

Amos Harel reports in today’s Haaretz, that it seems like Olmert decided to leave the Shalit problem to Netanyahu. As Olmert is going down anyway, this decision is even harder to explain. I hear people on the left say sometimes that Olmert was, after all, a pretty good leader, one who told the Israeli public some “brave truths” and was ready to make some “brave decisions”. As for me, I think that’s all Olmert ever did – talk.


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