Israel has lost it. For almost 1,000 days now, it has been gradually losing its sanity. However, in recent days it has even become a joke in the eyes of regional states and the entire world. What is supposedly the "strongest state in the Middle East" is gradually shrinking before are eyes into an entity preoccupied with one matter, while bit becomes obsessed with the release, at any price, of our abducted soldier, regardless of what will happen later.
What about the nuclear aspirations of the Ayatollah regime? We'll worry about it later. How about the upcoming talks with Syria? Nobody is interested in that. And what about a final-status agreement with the Palestinians? We're not there yet. Our energies, resources, rhetoric, and national considerations have become subjected to the chants of the street: "Free Gilad!" – As if it was the kind of ecstasy combining impassioned Hassidic dances with reckless voodoo ceremonies.
Today, Israel cannot be taken seriously at all. While Hamas is engaged in a chess game with major regional players, Israel is playing backgammon with itself. Its entire being is enlisted in favor of Shalit, as if the future had been outlawed. Seven million people are mortgaging their future for the day we shall watch Gilad's return to his parents, and to hell with the rest.
The current government's suicidal conduct does not require needless commentary. Kadima's term in office had been characterized by endless corruption and two military failures (and no, don't tell me that Operation Cast Lead was a glorious victory.) What cabinet ministers are left with, before they head home, is the need to finish their term with some sort of "achievement." The long-awaited-for photograph of the prime minister returning the captive to his family has become the only thing that matters. This will enable him to present his tenure as a great success story.
Shalit has become the refuge of the scoundrels, and Olmert, as the one who heads them, will do everything in order to be registered in the annals of history not as a failed politician, but rather, as one who "freed prisoners." It is not the concern for Shalit that guides Olmert and his ilk, but rather, their desire to register an "achievement" that would cause us to forget three years of resounding failures.
This collective obsession comes with an unbearable price tag. Each march, tent, or rally has boosted the release price. It is for good reason that I refused to take part in a protest march last year in London, where I've been residing in recent years. Gaza's freedom merchants work according to a simple tariff: A surfers' rally near the shores of Netanya equals the release of 30 terrorists. Flying kites near Gaza equals releasing the terrorists behind the bombing of a Haifa restaurant. A meeting with President Sarkozy is worth another 50 terrorists. A mention in Tzipi Livni's "victory speech" is worth a few more life prisoners.
And what about the terrorist who rolled a bus down an abyss en route to Tel Aviv? And how could we keep behind bars the despicable woman who murdered an innocent boy from Ashdod via the Internet? And who should we thank for the release of Barghouti? Certainly not Fatah. I can already see the Palestinian youngsters getting on the buses leaving the prisons and swearing not to put down their explosive belts. Hundreds of Samir Kuntars will create a new equation on the road connecting Jerusalem to Gaza and Ramallah.
PR protestThe Titanic-like conduct of Kadima's regime can drive any reasonable person concerned for the country's future crazy. The writing on the wall is loud and clear: Within a few months and a few abductees, terror groups would be able to dictate the make-up of our next coalition. IDF soldiers, wherever they may be, will become sitting ducks targeted for abduction. The Jibril deal syndrome will be a Purim party compared to the heritage of the Shalit deal.
The deal that saw the murderers of children being released in exchange for coffins and a drug dealer will seem like a bargain in the Arab bazaar by tomorrow. In addition, the en masse release of murderers will turn Hamas into the West Bank's "Hizbullah" and deliver a deathblow to Mahmoud Abbas' regime, the last hope for an agreement with the Palestinians.
The "deal" being formulated also constitutes a spit in the face of bereaved families. It is also akin to giving the finger to the courts that sent the killers to the place where they deserve to stay at. And how would Israel appear in the eyes of the nations of the world? Will the "state that never surrenders to terror" continue to preach to those who release Muslim terrorists? Don't government officials realize this is a step with international implications?
Just like in every struggle, the saga we are witnessing is undergoing a privatization process. The current PR protest, which has taken an embarrassing infantile nature, places the family vis-à-vis the wellbeing of society. I am not criticizing the Shalit family, yet they too need to understand that their son may be remembered in the future as part of a lethal cocktail we shall regret for eternity with infamy.
In a reality of ongoing armed struggle, we must reconcile ourselves to the ongoing captivity of soldiers. Britain has dealt with five captives in Iraq for more than two years now, yet despite this the country manages to go on. Meanwhile, there are more than three million mentions of Gilad Shalit in Google. Does anyone remember the names of the troops killed during his abduction? In the current media circus this isn't important, as a whole generation wants to see a release.
Some may say that the people of Israel are very merciful; I say that they are very foolish - and in the Middle Eastern jungle, we do not have the luxury of stupidity.
Dr. Shaul Tzedaka is a commentator, journalist, and communication lecturer