The foreign minister and defense minister have been engaged in an incisive debate regarding the feasibility of and price required for the release of a captive soldier. Yet overall it is a phony debate, where each of them agreed in fact that the idea of "at any price" does not exist, and that a decision should be taken in line with the specific circumstances of every case.
Had the above controversy been approached as an academic issue, we may have had some interest in it. Yet when this bogus disagreement emerges between two of Israel's top three decision-makers, this is an infuriating and outrageous matter.
It is clear to everyone that the State of Israel is helpless vis-à-vis countries where our soldiers are being held. For example, an Air Force navigator lost somewhere in Iran's vast expenses, or troops that were taken captive or disappeared in Syria and Lebanon. How can we rescue them? How should we conduct ourselves vis-à-vis these states? Should we embark on a war?
There are no unequivocal answers, and when Israel is required to pay a "heavy" price to secure the captive's release or gain some information about him, the cruel question of "at any price" emerges.
Yet Gilad Shalit is alive and is held a few kilometers away from IDF forces. He has not disappeared deep in any country. He is in the Gaza Strip, in a constrained, besieged zone. Israel can operate against it, within it, and around it with almost no interruption.
The government should not have agreed to a lull agreement without reaching agreement on Shalit's release on the same occasion. One of the main conditions that the government should have presented in exchange for ending military activity, surgical strikes, raids, and the Gaza economic siege was accelerated talks on Shalit's release.
In other words: The negotiators should have been talking day and night, a list of Palestinian prisoners to be freed should have been formulated, and the truce should have gone into effect only once those prisoners and Shalit were back home. Not a moment before that.
Had the government acted this way, Hamas would have likely shortened the negotiations as much as was possible, while also moderating the cheeky list of murderers it submitted, so that it could to the Egyptians because it truly wanted a ceasefire. Its victims were growing numerous, the economic crisis worsened, and first signs of political rebellion could be seen in Gaza.
Had the government acted this way, the question of "price" would have emerged over there, not around here. It would not be Israel debating whether the "price" of securing Shalit's release is too high. Gaza residents would have had to pay the price for Shalit's continued captivity.
Yet regrettably and surprisingly, the government of Israel – including our defense and foreign ministers – agreed to the lull without the abovementioned condition. The Shalit issue was "resolved" through some sort of dubious pledge that once the lull (which Hamas so greatly desired) takes effect, the group would agree to meet with Egyptian mediators in order to continue the Shalit negotiations.
Six months have passed since then. There are no more meetings, no negotiations, the prisoner list demanded by Hamas is growing longer and the blood on their hands is expanding. Under such state of affairs, our decision-makers are engaged in a discussion regarding the "price" of the release of a captive soldier.
At the same time, Hamas holds an animalistic display of "entrainment" featuring the Israeli soldier begging to be released. And while the Gaza mob cheers on, our ministers continue to argue, and our government rushes to declare its desire to extend the lull – without presenting any conditions in respect to the release of Gilad Shalit.