It appears that the almost-certain recipe for returning Gilad Shalit home is painfully simple: Had Israeli prime ministers and top security officials been able to delete the “day after” from public memory, we would have seen Gilad back in his room in Mitzpe Hila a while ago.
The people who need to make the decision on a swap with Hamas are, first and foremost, politicians who wish to be re-elected time and again. They are intimately familiar with the deceptive Israeli electorate – those people who wish to see Gilad Shalit home “at any price,” but a day after the release will be bitterly slamming the release of hundreds of arch-terrorists and murderers.
Our leaders know well that the heart of every Israeli citizen will be overwhelmed with joy and pride when he sees Gilad Shalit sharing a huge embrace with his wonderful parents, brother and sister; yet a minute later, when hundreds of overjoyed terrorists will be shown on television flashing the victory sign and mocking Israel, the very same Israelis will be cursing bitterly.
There is also a problem of policy: How do we stay away from paying the price within a month, two months, or two years, when the same gangs will again take up arms? The politicians can already see the screaming headlines in their mind’s eye: “The terrorist who carried out yesterday’s attack was released in the Shalit swap.” That’s the last thing they need.
And what about the principle? Do states normally trade hundreds of prisoners in exchange for one captive?
1,160 days have passed, as well as Gilad’s fourth birthday in captivity, and the time has come to tell the leaders: You already said all there is to say, gentlemen. Our entire emotional country already knows about the hesitations, your suffering, and the terrible price we shall be paying, and everyone – or almost everyone – is ready for that wonderful and terrible moment to arrive.
The most terrible thing after 1,160 days is that we know nothing about Gilad Shalit, at least not publically. Where is he? What’s his medical condition? Will he be returning on his feet, alive and well both in body and mind?
At this point we should not worry about the released terrorists going back to acts of terror and murder. Findings from the previous swaps show that only a few go back to terrorism. The others, often tired after dozens of years in Israeli prison, choose a new life. It’s a fact.
A total of 1,160 days have passed, as well as a fourth birthday in captivity. All that remains is to think about the kid who joined the army – and how he’ll be returning. All that remains is to think about and guess what he knows out there, in the darkness of his prison. Did they tell him that a whole country enlisted to his cause? Was he encouraged by it? Has he despaired?
And the question of a father: Who covers him with a blanket when it’s cold at night? Does he even have a blanket?
A total of 1,160 days and four birthdays; so close, yet so far.