Five years after the attack that captured Gilad Shalit, Hamas, the Islamic terrorist organization responsible, has finally won. The release of over a 1,000 terrorists in exchange for one captured Israeli soldier will turn experienced terrorists loose to participate in the next round of attack and train the next generation of terrorists.
However, the real victory belongs not to Hamas, but to its radical leftist partners. When Israel tried to isolate Hamas with a blockade, it was the international Left that did everything it could to break the blockade while spreading Hamas propaganda about starving children.
When Israel tried to take military action against Hamas, the Left threw together anti-war protests and compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. Code Pink met with Hamas leaders, and Viva Palestina brought money directly to Hamas. Left-wing clergy joined in a fast for Gaza and left-wing writers like Alice Walker and Henning Mankell boarded the Gaza flotilla.
While the Left tried to avoid using the word “Hamas” in their Gaza campaigns, just as they had avoided using “Saddam” in their Iraq campaigns, they were still working on behalf of a ruthless terrorist organization. Hamas pretended to be a social services agency and its leftist allies pretended they were concerned with humanitarian aid, but their true common goal was the destruction of Israel.
The Left kept Hamas from being isolated, gave it money and acted as its diplomatic corps, eroding Israel’s leverage and increasing Hamas’ standing. When the Left and its Egyptian mothership organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, joined forces to overthrow Mubarak, with Obama’s backing, that opened the door to Gaza. And it eliminated the remainder of Israel’s leverage.
In his book, “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists,” Netanyahu wrote, “Among the most important policies which must be adopted in the face of terrorism is the refusal to release convicted terrorists from prisons. This is a mistake that Israel, once the leader in anti-terror techniques, has made over and over again.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu is being rightly criticized for surrendering to Hamas, but he is well aware of the points that his critics are making. He has made them numerous times.
Release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmail situations in which innocent people may lose their lives. But its utility is momentary at best. Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the kind of terrorist blackmail which they are supposed to diffuse….only the most unrelenting refusal to ever give in to such blackmail can prevent most such situations from arising.
And Hamas has already stated that Gilad Shalit “will not be the last solider kidnapped.”
Why then did Netanyahu make the deal? Because the Left had drastically limited his options. Even while the international Left and portions of the Israeli Left were campaigning against any isolation of Gaza, his domestic left-wing opposition was running an aggressive Free Gilad Shalit campaign that accused Netanyahu, rather than Hamas, of keeping Shalit locked up.
Gilad Shalit became the unwitting symbol of a movement that had demanded a withdrawal from Gaza to save the lives of soldiers, and was now campaigning to release terrorists to save the life of a soldier who was only in captivity because of their withdrawal. After five years another installment of their policies is being paid for in blood.
Some Americans wonder why Israel didn’t just go into Gaza and bring him back. Again, the answer lies on the Left. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it lost most of its intelligence assets on the ground. Short-term operations and hit and run strikes have failed as a result. Nothing short of a full-scale reclamation of Gaza would have sufficed to find and free Gilad Shalit.
Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have the same powers as the President of the United States. The Israeli Minister of Defense is Ehud Barak, a former left-wing rival, who is part of a coalition of parties that forms the Netanyahu government. Imagine if Bush had been forced to run military operations through Secretary of Defense John Kerry, who could at any time bring down the administration and force new elections if something displeased him, and you get some idea of the awkwardness of the arrangement.
While Barak isn’t the major player he used to be, in combination with a number of other prominent ex-military and ex-intelligence players on the Left, and a hostile administration in Washington, that was enough to checkmate any long-term military operation.
Previous attacks on Hamas had failed because they were only temporary strikes that did not make any serious effort to drive it out of Gaza and restore the rule of law to the area. Like the Taliban or Hezbollah, its leaders knew that all they had to do was hang on and wait till the Left’s propaganda and war crimes allegations took enough of a toll that the operation would end.
The only practical option for dealing with Hamas and its rocket attacks was to retake Gaza, but Israeli conservative politicians, like their American counterparts, rarely do much to reverse the destructive policies of the Left. Instead they try to make the status quo manageable.
Netanyahu did not believe that the odds of a temporary military operation finding Shalit had gotten any better, and he was unwilling to commit to reclaiming Gaza and expelling Hamas, which would amount to months of conflict and outrageous claims of war crimes by the Left.
The Israel of Entebbe and Osirak would have gone for it, but that era has given way to nuanced politicians concerned with the country’s public image. And so five years later, the deal was finally made. The Left has pointed out that the deal could have been years ago, and they are correct. But they are the only reason that the deal had to be made at all.
The Left had strengthened Hamas and undermined Israel. The terrorist release is Hamas’ reward, but the Left’s victory.