A new version of folly

In surrendering to Hizbollah’s demands regarding the price to be paid for the return of the bodies of three of our soldiers, the government of Israel repeated the serious folly that it perpetrated in the deal with PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril in 1985. A fundamental rule in dealing with extortionists is not to concede to their demands, since there is no limit to the price that you’ll be asked to pay.

We broke this rule back in 1985 by freeing nearly 1500 terrorists in return for a handful of prisoners and abductees. The Arabs learned that it’s easy to practice extortion on Israel, and drew their conclusions. Those released also understood that Israel has little capacity to withstand terrorism and extortion. They quickly returned to the ranks, and immediately upon their release began organizing the popular assemblies that laid the groundwork for the first intifada in 1987. The Palestinian terrorist organizations reaped all the fruits of this affair, broke the Israeli government’s will to resist their pressures, and led it to sign off on unilateral concessions in the form of the Oslo agreements.

Now we have repeated the mistake with a different Arab enemy. Hizbollah cultivates an ideology of absolute hatred for Israel and Jews. Its television broadcasts portray Israel as a bloodthirsty monster whose public figures, political, and religious leaders are busy dismembering the bodies and sucking the blood of enemies near and far. The anti-Semitism displayed by this organization is comparable only to that of the Nazis; pictures like those broadcast by Hizbollah could only be found hitherto in Der Sturmer.

Even before acceding to its demands, the government of Israel granted Hizbollah tremendous prestige merely by agreeing to negotiate with it. In return for three dead bodies we released some 400 live terrorists. Once again the terrorists learned that their deeds can go unpunished: the death penalty is not invoked against them, while their prison sentences remain valid only until the next abduction and the bargaining and release that follow.

Hizbollah’s prestige on the Lebanese scene rose dramatically. Its success finalized its status as the primary and practically the sole actor among the large Shi’ite community.

The more moderate Amal has disappeared almost completely. The campaign to turn Lebanon into a Shi’ite Arab state received a tremendous boost.

The Israeli capitulation reverberates throughout the entire Middle East. Everywhere this is seen as an achievement for Iran’s aggressive policy against Israel. Iran’s proteges score points and gain prestige, while it continues to incite the Muslim world against Israel and to hoodwink everyone concerning its nuclear armament plans.

Nor were these lessons lost on the Palestinians. Kidnapping pays, and if it’s hard to abduct live Israelis (soldiers or civilians), it pays just as well to murder them and abduct the bodies. The leaders of Hamas openly declared that they intend to emulate Hizbollah’s tactics.

Throughout this affair everyone ignored the fact that the three Israeli soldiers were murdered in an ambush inside Israeli-held territory, that Hizbollah continues to defy the United Nations decision regarding the location of the border with Israel, and that it was lunacy for Israel to leave Lebanon without reaching an arrangement for the Lebanese government and army to fill the void in southern Lebanon created by the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces. Hizbollah’s dramatic achievement will only enhance its grip on the border area and heighten the danger posed to Israel in view of the extent and nature of the armaments that Hizbollah has concentrated in this sensitive region.

All this we accomplished because, in the words of Minister Meir Shitreet, "we’re not like other countries". He’s right; we aren’t. We behave like fools and cowards without compare. Get ready for the next abduction!