Spock: "The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few"
Kirk: "Or the one." (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
The Jewish world is all a-twitter with the news that a deal has been arranged to have kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit released in exchanged for 1027 Arab terrorists, many of whom are responsible for the murder of Jews. For some this is a moment of euphoria. After five years of what must have been brutal captivity, Gilad is coming home! For others, a broader view of the situation seems to preclude celebrating. I find myself in the latter group.
On one hand, I feel great sympathy for the Shalit family. For five years they have been living a nightmare that I would wish only on my worst enemy. Chazal tell us that when one loses a loved one for certain that the grief eventually passes but when one thinks a loved one is dead but really isn't the bereavement never ends. We learn this from how Yaakov Avinu mourned for Yosef Hatzadik for 22 years. For the Shalits, the grieving over the loss of Gilad, combined with the faint hope he might return safely to them one day must have been agonizing.
On the other hand, we have to ask if the terms of the deal are worth it. One soldier for thousands of murderers and wanna-be murderers. According to some reports I've seen the recidivism rate of released terrorists is about 60%. It is almost guaranteed that hundreds of Jews will die over the next ten years as a result of this release. And beyond that there is the suffering being caused to survivors of terrorist attacks and their families who thought their assailants were imprisoned for life and who now have to accept that those monsters will be loose to wreak havoc on them and their neighbours once more. Yes, the pain of the Shalit family has to be considered but what about the pain of these other families? Was it not taken into account?
In addition there is one basic problem with this deal: there is no confirmation that I am aware of that Gilad is alive save for the assurances of Hamas. Not exactly the most reliable source, eh? What happens if, at the prisoner exchange, the Arabs show up with Gilad in a box? Does the deal get called off?
I do not blame the Shalit family for one instant for protesting for the government to get Gilad back and applying the pressure they did. I do blame the government for capitulating to them. Bibi Netanyahu has to be concerned not just with the Shalit family but with the six million other Jews in Israel, many of whom will suffer if this exchange goes through. Yes we all want to see the Shalit family happily and safely reunited but what about the cost to everone else? Do their lives matter less?
To be blunt: If/when these killers murder more Jews, are the Shalits prepared to make a shiva call to each family and say "Well we're sorry about your loss. Too bad but hey, we got Gilad back!"?
It is still my opinion that Gilad was killed by Hamas five years ago after they realized a quick prisoner exchange was not in the works. I also don't doubt that they will not understand Israeli's reluctance to hand over 1027 murderers for his body. The Arab world has had a long tradition of expecting Israel to fulfill its side of any deal without feeling any obligation to keep up its own end.
But I cannot put my mind at ease with the idea that one soldier, however loved by his family and friends, was made more important than six million other Jews.