The Shamgar Committee will today hand its report to Israel’s Defence Minister. For the last four years (!) the committee members, headed by the retired High Court Chief Judge Meir Shamgar, worked on their recommendations to the Israeli government on how to handle cases of IDF soldier kidnap and how to manage the negotiations for their release in return for the release of terrorists locked up in Israel. It appears that the committee held back the publication of its recommendations for a few months until the completion of the Gilad Shalit deal.
The report will not contain any shocking surprises. It will recommend what any school kid could recommend to Israel’s governments to their generations many years ago in light of what he or she have learnt at the school yard. Paying ransom to for vile deeds only encourages the villains to cary out more vile deeds. If you pay, there is a reasonable price and there is a price which is totally unreasonable. And if you can hit the villain in the face and avoid paying altogether – even better.
Deals done to release POWs and the kidnapped – soldiers and civilians – and to return bodies are not new. What increases in its severity is the propaganda victory the enemy clutches every time Israel bends over. The return of the vile murderer Samir Kuntar to Lebanon for the bodies of the two IDF soldiers, Ehud Goldwaser and Eldad Regev, who were killed in the Hezbollah attack on their border patrol in 2006, when it was obvious from scientific opinion that they are no longer alive, was a bitter mistake that has made the Second Lebanon War and its victims completely futile. Who still remembers the names of their three friends who were killed in this attack and were left on the Israeli side of the border? The public pressures applied by their families certainly did not help Ehud Olmert’s flabby government to achieve a deal that will serve Israel’s national security needs better – a deal of bodies for bodies.
The public campaign for the release of Gilad Shalit also achieved the opposite of what was hoped for. It prolonged the negotiations by a long time, with Hammas understanding that under that pressure it would be able to blackmail the Israeli government much further than it could had the public and the media kept their voices down, and in the end also raised the price. Again – who remembers the names of Shalit’s two tank crew mates who were killed on the night of his abduction? In my opinion, the government had made a big mistake by delaying the publication of the report until after the deal was completed. Its publication during the negotiations could have been an opportunity to draw a line under all the concessions made to Hammas and to start the negotiations again with a clean sheet of paper along the lines of the committee’s recommendations. If they will be able to do this in the future in the deal for the release of the unknown soldier Elad Shavit whose kidnap by our enemies is only a question of time, why could they not have done it already in the deal for the release of Gilad Shalit?