Lt. Col. (ret.) Meir Indor is the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association.
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When I first heard about the kidnapping of the teens, I felt great frustration. I was one of the Almagor Terror Victims Association members who led the battle against the freeing of terrorists from prison, knowing that their release would do nothing but set the next kidnapping plot in motion. But our fight failed. We were unable to persuade political leaders to avoid the dark path of releasing terrorists, despite the evidence, both overt and covert, we brought to them showing that the motivation for kidnappings increases after prisoner exchange deals.
The express train barreled past us ahead of the Schalit deal, despite us waving desperately for it to stop. This was followed by the terrible deal under which Israel freed 80 murderers in exchange for merely the right to talk with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. How painful it is to say, “We told you so.” When the Palestinians saw the price Israel was willing to pay, they turned “liberating prisoners” into their top mission.
There is also an operational component to this. It has already been proven that a majority of released terrorists return to their past activities. Among other things, they hatch plots to free their friends left behind in prison. Also, a new generation of terrorists sees that all prisoners have a prospect for release, which enables the recruitment of more young people into the terrorist industry.
The cabinet reports that there have been more than 100 kidnapping attempts just in the past year (where did they hide this data previously?). This is a dramatic number. What will the price be this time? Do we pay it and again encourage further kidnappings? The time has come for an immediate change of direction. Israel must set new rules for the game and adopt the Shamgar Committee report, which includes operational recommendations on how to “correspond” with kidnappers.
The public must not fall asleep on watch, not this time. Pretty soon, “human rights” groups will pop up and begin hounding the IDF and security forces. They will initiate petitions against the searches, checkpoints and arrests. Politicians will also start to lose their nerve. Some have already hinted at this.
“We must not forget that part of Hamas is a political body,” Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said after the arrest of Hamas leaders in Judea and Samaria. Luckily, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter was there to correct Shelah and say that Hamas, in Judea and Samaria, is entirely a terrorist group, with no “political” component. But there will not always be someone there to set the facts straight. This means proponents of the current military operation must be ready to take flak, as eventually there will be calls to release terrorists, instead of defeating terrorism.
This is where the public needs to step in. If the Schalit scenario replays itself, the public will be summoned to defend the state from another harmful prisoner release deal. IDF commanders cannot engage in dealing with fire from civilian groups. The public must now establish a “defensive shield.” Ze’ev Jabotinsky already called for this in the 1920s, when he spoke of an “iron wall.” In essence, the public must build a structure of support for the IDF and security forces to go on the offensive on the road to victory over terrorism.