Do the Gilad Shalit Protests Help or Harm?

Two days ago, I wrote about my experiences in the Gilad Shalit tent. After I volunteered the first time, I found myself in a conversation with a friend who felt that these types of big, visible protests were harmful to the cause because it shows the enemy dissent on our side and only drives up the price (and that our government is doing absolutely everything it can so why criticize it?) I maintained that while this could be the case, I have a hard time blaming ourselves, that this is a sign of a democracy which so strongly values life. The same issue came up with Goldwasser and Regev last year….even if we made a mistake by releasing that sleazeball Samir Kuntar, it’s a bit unfair to be too hard on ourselves for being such a feeling, emotional nation.

His position is below….I don’t think there are rights and wrongs. There are no good options but at least we live in a country with many of them. Thoughts?

So many people have the most intense opinions about the Gilad Shalit issue. I call it that because I think that for some it is more of an issue than a person. I’ve been exposed to a point of view which most of the general public has not from my experiences and I think it’s worth sharing.

I’m a Zionist but I see people protesting the Israeli government to “release Gilad Shalit” and it bothers me to a certain extent… because WE are not holding him! I think that people are frustrated, as I am, that he has not been released, but I can assure you that it is not for lack of will or desire on the part of the government. Please allow me to explain.

Whomever is Prime Minister (or anyone who takes part in the deal) when Gilad Shalit is freed will be getting political capital of a tremendous power. It is political gold. And any politician would be willing to sell his own mother to get him back. These past 3 sentences are practically exact quotes from a former member of Parliament! He explained that it is not a matter of Israel not willing to do enough…it is that Hamas simply does not want to release him! He is worth so much more to them in captivity. And I hope that no intelligent person actually believes that they care about the Hamas people in Israeli prisons. Seriously! They send these guys on SUICIDE missions, does anyone think their lives are valued more than the huge political and psychological victory which holding an Israeli soldier represents?

I know that it is hard to do this but I’m going to say it anyway…. Trust that the Israeli government (under ANY Prime Minister) is doing all in its power to effect Gilad’s release. That he has not been released yet is because Hamas does not want to release him.

Anyone can find a million things wrong with any government. Protest these things. Budget. Corruption. Policy. The peace-process. Whatever. But believe that the IDF wants Gilad back, and there are people working day and night for this purpose… and it’s not for show. It’s not as if the government needs to be convinced of something.

I’m against these ‘protests’… I am NOT against keeping Gilad’s name in the public consciousness. It is important. But it should be as positive and supportive as possible. The government is in an impossibly difficult position and these protests DO NOT ADVANCE ANY CAUSE. They will not bring Gilad back sooner, and they may in fact hurt this goal.

Imagine that you were going to buy a home, and went to negotiate with the seller… and outside the room where you were negotiating, your entire family, spouse, in-laws, etc. were holding up signs saying “PAY WHATEVER IT TAKES! YOU MUST HAVE THIS HOUSE!!!”…. What incentive would the seller have to not constantly raise the price. And in this case, Gilad is the only ‘house’ on the market. It’s not like we can go to someone else and bargain for his release on better terms. Hamas thinks that our democracy is a weakness, and they mock it with their ‘negotiations’ and ‘counter-offers’. We need to turn the tables on them and behave a bit more modestly and quietly. We need to take this PR weapon AWAY from them, instead of strengthening their apparent position.

A parallel example. Israel has for YEARS tried to get Eli Cohen’s bones back from Syria. We’ve offered LIVE terrorists, money, food, and all kinds of incentives… but they refuse. Think about it! Syria would rather keep the 40 year-old remains of an Israeli spy than get back LIVE spies of their own, plus tons of other goodies. It’s a matter of pride, and it is a set of values which is in absolute contradiction to our own. This is why the protests which people think are helpful, can actually be hurtful.

None of us are privy to the secret intelligence information which the Prime Minister, IDF Chief of Staff, and intelligence agencies have… and we need to trust their professional judgment as to what is in the best interest of the country as a whole. Tomorrow these same people could decide that Israel will be involved in a war which will result in the death and injury of thousands of people… certainly we should therefore allow them to do their job with regards to this one brave individual named Gilad.

This is a special country. And though you may agree or disagree with any number of things that a person might do (like the PM, or any other person)… remember that the system is bigger than any one person. They are very much limited by circumstances. They don’t have the power we sometimes envision. No one person can just snap his (or her) fingers and make the stars align in such a manner that Gilad will be freed. Believe me… they have tried. 🙂

I will go to reserve duty proud to be a soldier in the IDF… the most moral, ethical, professional, and fantastic Army in existence.

I will have my doubts about the government, or some individual commanders…

But I will go with trust in my country and my people….

I will go with faith in our mission, which ultimately is the defense of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The path to that mission is strewn with distractions and other smaller ‘missions’.

I will not lose sight of the real mission. The long-term mission.

And if something should happen to me… please don’t blame anyone. Just wait, and trust in the same thing that I trusted in when I put on this uniform.

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