Friday, April 19, 2024 -
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From Begin to Olmert, perversity over prisoners

Don’t blame this one on the feckless Ehud Olmert. Former Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin fell prey to the same emotional blackmail. It runs like this: No price is too high to pay for the retrieval of a captured Israeli soldier, dead or alive.

Olmert might be the first, however, to concede that the tactic is self-defeating, while also, in a double perversity, raising self-defeat to a high moral value. After agreeing to trade five living, unrepentant Lebanese terrorists for two dead Israelis, Olmert stated: “I hope that the Israeli public will know to draw the necessary conclusion from this so that it will be more prepared and mature for the next time, which already lies in wait for us.”

Translation: The enemy will capture more of our soldiers, for  whom we will engage in a vastly disproportionate exchange of criminals. Just be big about it. Be “mature.”

Under Jewish law, a kidnapped or captured human life has a price, an upper limit. To be sure, the calculus is an inexact science, but the principle is clear:

Whatever the financial line beyond which the kidnapper will be motivated to engage in further kidnappings — that price is not to be paid. Clearly, for Israel to turn over the remains of dozens of slain Lebanese, plus five terrorists, including Samir Kuntar — who bludgeoned to death a man and his four-year-old daughter in 1979 — for two dead Israeli bodies is a tremendous motivation for the terrorists to keep killing.

The obvious, anti-motivation proportion would be to trade two dead bodies for two dead bodies. If the terrorists want more, no deal. If that means Israel doesn’t get its bodies back, so be it.

Olmert, and before him many prime ministers back to Begin, have unwisely said: We do not acknowledge any line beyond which we will not redeem a captive.

Moreover, Olmert instructs us to be “mature,” i.e., to expect the present, grossly imbalanced exchange to stimulate further terrorist outrages and more anguished, disproportionate exchanges. This is a perversity, a violation of Torah, a proverbial throwing in of the towel.

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