Bag’s Take-Away:You couldn’t have two more complimentary and self-serving pictures: the jubilant Hamas number one One, Haniyeh, with one of his released trophy-prisoners, and Netanyahu with his. ‘It’s all about me’ — AND showing-up Abbas. (photo 1: Israeli Government Press Office/Associated Press caption: Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit saluted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at the Tel Nof Air base in southern Israel..photo 2: Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press caption: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) stood with released Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Al Hasani during a welcoming ceremony in Gaza City on Oct. 18.)
“I live down the road from where the Shalit protest tent is, and for the last year each day I have walked past and seen the sad, withdrawn eyes of Noam Shalit. It may be difficult for the world to understand why we can exchange one Jewish life for over 1,000 terrorists. There are two important principles behind this. Firstly, it's not that Gilad could have been our son. It is that he is our son, or brother. The Jewish people are one family. Secondly, save a life and you save the whole world. The deal is dangerous, disproportionate and probably a mistake, yet it is understandable. You take risks to save your family.”—Ruth, Jerusalem
Blogger: Palestinains claim getting a 100,000% return on investment is a bum deal
The normally astute analysis at the Camel’s Nose Blog has instead left me baffled today with a post on the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange:
Wait, wait, wait. First of all, who is making the claim that Israel is forcing the Palestinians to devalue themselves with these deals? I have never heard such a ridiculous idea in my life. The post’s rebuttal of this claim is equally off the mark:
Outside of Israel, including here in Washington, there are those who have made the argument that the deal is indicative of a double-standard on Israel’s part. The argument is that Israel devalues Palestinian life as evidenced by the 1027:1 ratio of prisoners involved in the swap. For a single Israeli life, Israel is willing to trade 1027 Palestinian lives, a gaping disparity between its valuation of the two sides of the equation. This argument is controversial but also powerful. More importantly, it raises the question of morality in policymaking, an often-ignored but important facet of the field.
In some ways, the argument is valid. States do consistently value the lives of their own citizens over the lives of non-citizens. Analysts may attribute racial or cultural differences to the disparity, and such attributions may be legitimate. Israel’s valuation of Israeli life above Palestinian life is evident in the conditions imposed on Palestinians through land blockades on the Gaza Strip, checkpoints and arbitrary detention in the West Bank, and disregard for historical land claims along the route of the Separation Barrier.
These points are not untrue, but they are mostly irrelevant. The number 1,027 was arrived at not by Israel, but by the Palestinians. They knew the singular objective of the Israeli government — to return Shalit — and maximized the gain they could extract from the deal. If Israel could have traded away only one Palestinian to get Shalit, don’t you think they would have?
Firstly, those in the Palestinian leadership making the argument are themselves benefitting from the prisoner release. This point does not undermine the internal validity of the argument. However, it does undermine the credibility of some of its major advocates. It would be akin to someone attending a protest on oil dependence driving an SUV 6 hours to get there. The action alone doesn’t delegitimize the argument but it should call into question the credibility of the actor making it.
Secondly, the argument implies that the morally superior decision for Israel would have been not to negotiate at all. Since negotiating a 1027:1 prisoner swap devalues Palestinian life, the argument implies that given Israel’s choice between the asymmetric 1027:1 or the symmetric 0:0, the latter would be the optimal (more moral) choice. It bears mention that this has in fact been Israel’s choice for the past five years. Thus, while the final terms may be asymmetrical, they are hardly the result of spurious action by Israel. 1027 after over 5 years of political ramifications is not the same as 1027 a week after the kidnapping. Truly demonstrating the swap is immoral requires accounting for many other variables over the 5-plus year period. If the swap is immoral, it is not only on these grounds.
The unbearable ease of the kidnapping
A lot of distortion of reality and other rubbish in this article but Israel is clearly very embarrassed by how seemingly ”easy” Hizbullah’s abduction of the two IDF soldiers in July 2006 was. See full Haaretz article here and below:
The video clip released by Hezbollah on Friday, which documents the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, and during which soldiers Shani Turgeman, Eyal Benin, and Vasim Nazel were killed, gives goose bumps to anyone that was there on the Lebanese border, during that forlorn summer of 2006.
The bend in the road near report line 105, east of the northern settlement of Zarit is well known, from multiple visits to the scene of the attack during the months and years that followed.
For the first time, that bend in the road is seen from the other side of the Lebanese border, from a viewpoint hidden in an overgrown wadi, which concealed the ambush that Hezbollah had laid in wait of IDF hummers.
Most importantly, the Hezbollah militants had the camera rolling from the moment the border was breached, and it documented every stage of the incident, up until the point that Goldwasser and Regevwere extracted from their hummer, either dead, or critically injured.
Apparently, there are details regarding the attack that Hezbollah prefers to keep to itself, and whether or not the two soldiers were alive as they were kidnapped and taken to Lebanon is at the top of the list.
Why did Hezbollah decide to release the video now, of all times? Roughly two weeks after the sixth anniversary of the start of the Second Lebanon War, with the world focus in London on eve of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games?
The explanation apparently has much to do with the internal situation in Lebanon, where calls to disarm Hezbollah have been renewed as of late.
On Saturday morning, a Lebanese website, known for its disdain for Hezbollah, quoted a senior official from within the anti-Syria camp, who called the coming elections an “operation to displace Hezbollah’s sovereignty from Lebanon.”
Lebanese parliamentary elections are expected to be held June 2013, and the Shi’ite organization’s situation is a rather uncomfortable one. The video clip is a reminder of Hezbollah’s might, as the true military defender of the Lebanese people.
“We are the only ones who can stand against the Israeli enemy,” says Hezbollah, to the Lebanese people, who are currently focusing their attention on the murders being carried out by Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.
On Friday night as well, clashes took place in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, between militants supporting Assad, and militants supporting the opposition, in which 12 people were injured.
No less interesting is the method Hezbollah chose to release the clip. The clip was released through the relatively new television channel al-Midian, founded by the analyst Rasan Ben Gado, former al-Jazeera office chief in Lebanon, who has close ties to Hezbollah. Ben Gado quit al-Jazeera over the channel’s anti-Syria policy, and founded, apparently with the help of Hezbollah, al-Midian. The release of the video bolsters the new channel, not just Hezbollah.
A few more interesting insights arise from viewing the video:
1.The unbearable ease of the kidnapping – contrary to some of the earlier estimations, that the fence was breached at night, under cover of darkness, the video reveals that the Hezbollah forces crossed the border in broad daylight, a minute or two (unless the video was edited at this point) before opening fire on the IDF hummers.
Hezbollah forces apparently watched the eastward movement of the patrol on the winding road and timed their attack. Hezbollah knew that it was a “dead area” in terms of visibility for IDF observation posts. (Division 91 had requested a camera be erected at the spot, but the request was turned down due to budgeting concerns. The camera was erected a week after the kidnapping.) The Livne bunker, located on report line 105, was not regularly manned at the time, and other posts and observation points were attacked during the kidnapping, to make it difficult for IDF forces to respond.
2. The patrol didn’t return fire – from the video clip, it was a completely one-sided fight. The ambush took the soldiers in both hummers by surprise. Some were killed on the spot by anti-tank missiles, before they could respond. Two soldiers, including the driver of one of the hummers, escaped, wounded, and hid in the bushes. The video clip does not show the arrival of other IDF forces. The first additional IDF arrived at 9:45 A.M., roughly 40 minutes after the incident began.
3. The negligence was all encompassing – Days before the end of the war, IDF forces conducted a search of the area north of the border fence, and found a Hezbollah bunker on a hill overlooking the scene of the kidnapping (apparently very close to the point where the clip was filmed). Hezbollah forces had managed to carry out extensive preparations for the operation under Israel’s nose.
IDF activity on the Lebanese border between 2000 and 2006 was low on the list of priorities, because of budget problems, and lack of availability of equipment and manpower. Israel also gave up demonstrating sovereignty, and other aggressive military activities in the area, in efforts not to start a conflict with Hezbollah at a time when Palestinian terror was running rampant within the West Bank. The result: Hezbollah took the initiative, and its efforts led to war.
Apparently there is a hidden message here, for current times. The balance of power is clear: the IDF is immeasurably stronger than Hezbollah. Even though Israel did not win the Second Lebanon War, the blow dealt to the Shi’ite organization has proven strong enough to prevent it from starting a second round, to this day, in spite of Hassan Nasrallah’s frequent victory speeches.
It would be a terrible mistake however, to underestimate Hezbollah’s capabilities once again, regardless of whether the decision to act comes from Beirut or Teheran.
In 2006 we were surprised by the kidnapping, the attack on the navy vessel “Hanit,” the Battle of Bint Jbeil, and the rocket fire in the north. If another conflict were to start in the future, it must be taken into account that not only the IDF, but Hezbollah as well have been training and improving during the years of intermission.