This entry was written before Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, of blessed memory, were found brutally murdered. With the exception of the epilogue, the premises and conclusions of the piece remain unchanged.
It’s never pleasant when a bad decision from the past comes back to haunt you. Knowing that you opposed that decision, and correctly predicted its terrible future consequences, is not much consolation. Many Israelis felt this trepidation during the process that culminated in the exchange of 1,027 Hamas terrorists, collectively responsible for the deaths of over 560 Israeli citizens, for one abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
On June 30, 2009, Infantryman Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his base in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Members of his unit have stated their unequivocal conviction that he had deserted in order to join the Taliban. Correspondence between Bergdahl and his father, Robert Bergdahl, exhibited Bowe’s sympathy for the Taliban. After five years in captivity, Bergdahl was swapped for five senior Taliban terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), two of whom were involved in the 9/11/2001 bombings. Pundits and politicians alike referenced the Shalit prisoner swap as justification for the release of five members of the jihadist tactical elite.
The latest dividend of that terrible decision was paid out two weeks ago in Israel. Naftali Frankel (, 16, from Nof Ayalon), Gilad Shaer (, 16, from Talmon), and Eyal Yifrah (, 19, from Elad,) were hiking in the Judean hills near their homes when they were kidnapped by Arab terrorists. An additional disturbing development is the violent demonstrations Arab Israelis in support of the kidnappers.
It isn’t terribily difficult to connect the dots. Negotiating with terrorists is an act of weakness that emboldens barbaric enemies and weakens allies. Since the Shalit prisoner swap, attacks on Israelis have continued. Why wouldn’t they? His kidnappers won an immediate tactical victory. What Netanyahu, and the west that lauded the swap, refused to see was that the terrorists won a strategic victory as well. The bar of resistance against jihadist terror and the psychological warfare of kidnapping had been significantly lowered.
Over the past few days in Israel, support for the terrorist kidnappers has emerged among Arab-Israelis in violent demonstrations against the IDF’s effort to find and rescue the abducted teenagers. Anti-Zionist Balad Party MK Hanan Zoabi, who incredibly remains in the Knesset despite regularly supporting the effort to destroy Israel, justified the kidnapping and criticized the Palestinian Authority’s cooperation to locate the boys. Because of a refusal to adopt an offensive posture to eliminate our existentially threatening enemies, jihadists roar and moderate Arabs remain silent. The latter will not risk their lives for futile gestures, no matter how noble those gestures might be. It is difficult to see how a society, or a civilization for that matter, can survive while it tolerates such challenges to its survival from within.
I was present at a rally on behalf of the kidnapped Israeli teenagers at the Boca Raton Jewish Center last Monday night. It was very gratifying to see a large turnout of concerned individuals. Unfortunately, the event was marred by measures of learned helplessness and political posturing.
At one point a presenter rattled off the names of Democratic Party politicians who made statements of support for the kidnapped boys. That presenter apparently hadn’t bothered to solicit such statements from a single Florida Republican supporter of Israel, such as Allen West or Marco Rubio. The presenter also declined to mention the efforts of Sen. Rand Paul, a couple of weeks before the kidnapping, to introduce a bill in the Senate cutting off all aid to the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. It didn’t help that few of the speakers properly pronounced Eyal’s name.
Israel’s Consul to Florida and Puerto Rico only went so for as to urge people to participate in a Twitter #bringbackourboys campaign. Yes, the Israeli Consul believes that an internet social media petition made up of a hashtag will get under the skin of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s neighborhood proxy. I was angered by the utter fecklessness of these presenters. What sent me over the edge, though, was the end of the evening. Someone, perhaps a rabbi or a cantor, thought it fitting to lead the congregation in rousing renditions of “Oseh Shalom Bimromav” and “David Melekh Yisrael,” songs of peace and celebration.
No, when three teenagers are lying somewhere captive, perhaps injured, perhaps starving, perhaps dead, it is not the time to talk of peace. It is not the time to sing proud songs of celebration. It is time to get angry. It is time to channel fear and outrage into deeds in the physical world. That means rallies in front of embassies and government buildings. That means telephone campaigns that at least gain the attention of government staffers. It means standing on busy street corners with banners. It might be inconvenient, it might require more than a few mouseclicks and keystrokes.
It is time to ask, why is the Palestinian Authority still getting American tax dollars? It is time to ask, how many more Israelis will be kidnapped because their government chose populism over real security. It is time to ask, why didn’t the Senate even vote on the bill to defund the PA at the very time its president, Mahmoud Abbas, officially allied to share power with Hamas? It is time for the government of Israel to enforce real, lasting consequences for attacks on its people and its country’s sovereignty.
Epilogue – 30 June 2014:
Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal, of blessed memory, have been found brutally murdered near Hebron. Now is a time of mourning for the Frankel, Shaer, and Yifrah families; may they never know such sorrow again. While Israelis and Jews around the world mark this time of sadness, the sovereign state of Israel has no such luxury; it must respond – decisively. Israel should immediately announce (a) the elimination of all restrictions on Israeli construction in the E-1 corridor adjacent to Jerusalem, (b) the authorization of three new settlements in Judea and Samaria.