President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has openly criticized Israel. He says that the issue of opening the crossings and the ceasefire agreement should not be connected to the issue of Gilad Shalit. He’s right. It is time for Israel to learn to negotiate properly. We’ve failed for much of the last 61 years to do this correctly. Apples with apples; oranges with oranges.
First – let’s talk about the ceasefire. We, unlike our enemies, do not seek to harm innocents. We do not target them, we do not abuse them, and most importantly, we do not relish and celebrate when they get in the middle. So, we can afford to be generous on this issue. Here’s our very generous offer: stop firing at us, and we won’t fire at you. Send no more rockets at our citizens, and we won’t send any at your citizens either. Mubarak is correct – the issue of the ceasefire is clear and simple. Gee, that was easy.
Wait, one caveat – if you do plan to send rockets and missiles, we suggest you build shelters for your innocents, as we have done for ours. Improve your siren system; perhaps create a Code Red. Calculate how long it takes for an Israeli missile to target your civilian populations and then start training your people to run as fast as they can. Train them not to be out in the open, to avoid large gatherings.
Forbid weddings within miles and miles of Israel and train your children to fall to the ground and cover their heads with their hands. Teach them to pray. Mubarak is correct. It is in our interest and yours to see this ceasefire work. This morning, again, a rocket was fired into Israel. You fired, it is our turn, our right, to choose to respond.
Second – the crossings. You want them open? Your people are suffering because they are lacking things that they are so used to getting in Israel, from Israel, through Israel? You want your people to be able to cross into Israel and go to our medical center for treatment? Well, we want something too. We want the crossings to work in two directions. We want Gilad Shalit to cross into Israel from Gaza. So in this, Mubarak is wrong.
Mubarak says the issue of Gilad Shalit should be tied to a prisoner exchange. The Palestinians agree. They have filled their list of 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one 22-year-old who has not seen his parents in 3 years, has not spoken to them. Gilad Shalit, at 19, was taken captive. He was a young man, a boy, really, who had never known war. He’d barely finished his training.
Hamas equates Gilad Shalit with murderers who targeted children, assassins of political leaders, and those who live their lives to murder and maim innocents. Apples and apples; oranges and oranges. Israel must be fair. We must announce that we will release all prisoners who have done no harm, planned no attacks, hurt no one. We have no right to hold anyone for more than 2 years, if all they did was patrol Gaza’s border and plan for what they would do after their stint in the army of Hamas.
Release any innocents – you, and us. Mubarak is correct and we must have fair exchanges. Perhaps now, you are all shaking your heads, thinking that I am naive, as I was when I demanded recently that the Israeli government cease any negotiations for Gilad. In this assumption, perhaps you are correct. It isn’t possible for Israel to release only those who have caused no harm; the numbers, if any, are probably close to insignificant.
Gilad deserves to come home – but releasing murderers is not the way. According to several news sources, our government is seriously considering the release of the following murderers:
- Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted of five murder counts and given multiple life-sentences
- Ibrahim Hamed, the leader of the military wing in the West Bank
- Abdullah Barghouti, who was the mastermind behind the bombings at the Sbarro Pizzeria and Cafe Moment in Jerusalem
- Abbas al–Sayed, mastermind of the Park Hotel massacre on Passover eve 2002 in Netanya
To release these men is to accept that they will murder again and each death will be the result of a deal for Gilad gone wrong. It’s sometimes easy to agree to pay the price today without worrying about tomorrow and who we will bury.
We so desperately want Gilad to come home, but we can’t agree to releasing those who have killed and will kill again. That is not the way to bring Gilad home; not the way to negotiate with those who store rockets in mosques and missiles in schools. Gilad must come home because international pressure and our own government refuse to open the crossings so long as Gilad is not the first to cross back to his home.
Do not reward murderers or further punish the families of those they murdered. Don’t ask a father who lost a child in Sbarro or the Moment Café if releasing his child’s murderer is a fair trade for Gilad. What can he say? How many more times can his heart bleed?
Mubarak is right – apples for apples, oranges for oranges, ceasefire for ceasefire, and innocent boys for innocent boys. Let the murderers rot in jail where they belong. Their release is not needed to bring Gilad home – all we need is a united government that stands strong against all demands…until our single demand is met – we want Gilad home now!