DC Native in the Holy Land: Gilad Shalit

Jennifer Nath talks about her experience in Israel on the fifth anniversary of the IDF soldier’s kidnap:

Last year, at this time of year, a giant parade of protesters marched down one of the biggest highways in Israel in solidarity with Gilad Shalit. This year, the anniversary of his kidnapping was marked by prominent Israeli entertainers spending a symbolic hour in a prison, in a show of empathy. Even the Gilad Shalit t-shirt worn by the homeless man begging on the median strip this morning seemed to be a manifestation of the cultural touchstone in Israeli society that is Gilad Shalit.

 

Like many of the challenges faced by Israeli society and political decision-makers, Gilad Shalit’s abduction poses a dilemma to which there are no easy answers. Gilad is a son and brother, a soldier, a dual citizen of both Israel and France, and a political bargaining chip whose worth in imprisoned Gazans varies depending on the state of negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

The dilemmas posed by his situation are painful: does Israel pay whatever it takes to free someone who could be anyone’s son? Or is the price to be paid – the release of a number of convicted terrorists back into Gaza – not worth the life of only one soldier? Does the Israeli government need to do whatever it takes to release him in order to show the current and future soldiers that their government will never abandon them? Or should the government take into account the safety of the society at-large and the danger that might be posed by the prisoners who would be released in exchange for Gilad?

Some Israelis to whom I have spoken believe that the price being demanded for Gilad is too high, and that if the Israeli government “gave in” to the current demands of Hamas, the price to pay for kidnapped soldiers would be even higher in the future. Others say that no price is to high, and that the government must just bite the bullet and pay.

In my opinion, there is no easy “right” answer to this question. The way I deal with this question, as well as many other controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to accept that my emotional, moral, political and strategic perspectives will inevitably and uncomfortably clash with and contradict one another. The best way to understand is to become comfortable with the discomfort.