That Gilad Shalit has been released after five years of captivity by Hamas brings joy to anyone who watches the Israeli soldier’s reunion with his parents and the ecstatic welcome he received by his countrymen. It also reminds one of the Israel Defense Forces’ noble purpose in doing all it can to stand by its men.
But joy is tempered by the bitter realities of statecraft. First, the trade of one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Arabs, 477 of them convicted terrorists, offers huge incentives for the capture of more Israeli soldiers. Second, the trade releases hundreds of terrorists to their freedom, where they can resume their evil ways, targeting not just Israelis but civilized peoples everywhere.
This exchange points to the sentimentalization of strategy. Leaders who place the concerns of one individual over the interests of the country betray their mandate and poison its future. Israeli politicians have been making these lopsided swaps since 1982, releasing over ten thousand Palestinians serving prison sentences for terrorist or other hostile actions. Each time they do, they forsake principle and common sense for short-term benefits. Shame on them.