Benjamin Netanyahu once recounted how he lost his sense of taste for several weeks while grieving for his brother, Yoni, who was killed in the operation to free hostages in Uganda in 1976.
The main lesson that could have been learned from the operation to release the hostages was that Israel does not give in to terror and is unwilling to be blackmailed. If we take this example further, we will reach the conclusion that had the government been willing to negotiate with the abductors at the time, Yoni Netanyahu may have been alive today.
Benjamin Netanyahu dedicated many years in an effort to impart his lessons to Israelis and to the international community. He wrote books where he advised the Western world on the war against terror. Another, less familiar, aspect of Netanyahu’s personality also has to do with bereavement: In phone conversations and visits he holds at the homes of families who lost their loved ones, he displays deep interest in the mourners and stuns them when his eyes grow teary while hearing stories about their loss.
Netanyahu devoted this past weekend to analyzing the various implications of the decision he needs to make: Pay the terrible price required for Gilad Shalit’s release, or reject the offer and justify it by referring to the responsibility he bears as prime minister – mostly the responsibility to weigh the implications of a decision to release hundreds of murderers from Israeli jails.
The Shalit precedentSaturday night, Netanyahu’s close aides arrived at his residence. He listened to them without hinting which way he leans. We will not exaggerate if we say that the responsibility born by Netanyahu at this time cannot be compared to anything else: Every decision he makes will influence bereaved families, Israelis who serve in the security forces, and many others.
Will Netanyahu hurl the principles he believed in for years into the garbage bin of history? Will he listen to the Shalit family’s cry? All the talk about Israel limiting the number of prisoners it would be willing to release in future swaps is worthless: The next deal will be premised on the Shalit precedent.
Yet there is one thing we can all agree on: There is no need to envy Netanyahu at this time.