The culture of the civilized world maintains that you never leave a soldier alone on the battlefield. However, leaders of the Western World have repeatedly stated that they will never negotiate with terrorists. But what if the terrorists have plucked a conscripted soldier from the field within eyesight of their home borders? This is an issue that I explored when traveling to Israel on Taglit Birthright, a ten-day free trip to Israel for Jewish Youth across the world.
Israel is directly situated in the middle of politically unstable, terrorist regimes that would all like to wipe Israel off the map. For example, Hezbollah in Lebanon are rumoured to have acquired about 150,000 missiles from Iran in hopes of causing mass casualty to the Jewish people. For this reason, the brave men and woman of the Israel Defense Force protect every inch of the Israeli border.
I saw these soldiers first hand when our tour guide, a former soldier, took us to a viewpoint of Lebanon. We saw the triple layered fences, the patrol roads, and the UN security bases. While overlooking the lush Israeli farmland, next to the desolate Lebanese hills, our tour guide explained one of the many internal Israeli conflicts: Leave a soldier behind, or negotiate with the terrorists that are trying to make life in Israel as hard as possible.
This morally difficult decision was exemplified in the brutal kidnapping and torturing by Hamas of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. The Israeli government first refused to negotiate, calling for his unconditional release. After 5 years, when his life was in jeopardy, Israel released 1027 prisoners who collectively were responsible for 569 Israeli deaths, in exchange for Shalit.
In 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped on the Lebanese border while on patrol. They were killed, and Israel still traded 435 prisoners just to return their bodies. The three soldiers were protecting the border and maintaining peace for the hardworking Israeli people. This kidnapping ultimately was the catalyst for the second Lebanon war in 2006.
In Canada, we are fortunate to not have or enemies firing rockets into our backyards, and taking our soldiers off our borders. But what if an unlikely situation occurred, and one of our soldiers was kidnapped in Canada?
The government has repeatedly stated that they will not negotiate with terrorists. Many Israelis share this opinion. Will negotiating with these barbarians give them more incentive to kidnap more soldiers? Is it fair to trade hundreds of terrorists convicted in a democratic court of law for one Israeli soldier who wakes up every morning praying for peace? Will prisoner transfers cause more innocent casualties in the long run? These are the questions that the Israeli people debate on a regular basis.
On the other hand, many people think that Israel should do everything possible to bring back their soldiers. Unlike Canada, all Israelis must go to the army right after high school. Boys serve for 3 years and girls serve for 2 years. If these teenagers and their parents thought that the Israeli government wouldn't do everything in their power to help them in a time of crises, a mass revolt could occur against the army.
In the Jewish custom, the value placed on one life is of utmost importance. The Israeli people rely on their government and their military training to ensure their safety.
Reluctantly, Israel has chosen the latter option in their kidnapping policy during the past few incidents. If demanding the safe return of the soldier fails, Israel feels as if they have no other option. In the opinion of Israelis, the value of life is higher than any other factor.
When I first learned about this negotiating policy, I was hesitant to agree with it. However, one of the highlights of the Birthright program is that we travel for 5 days with 8 Israeli soldiers. These soldiers were the same age as us, and shared many commonalities. They are not there to provide security, but rather to befriend and learn with the participants.
I tried to imagine what happened if the unthinkable occurred and they got kidnapped. This made me think, what about if my best friend got kidnapped, or my brother or sister? What would I want the Israeli government to do? It is easy to formulate an opinion when you hear of these horrible events on the news, but when I was in Israel with the soldiers, I found my opinions changing.
Israel is not a war-torn country. It is a well functioning, civilized democracy. That is not to say it doesn't have its problems. But having a conflict between keeping terrorist incarcerated or bringing home a tortured family member is something that Canadians are very fortunate to not have to consider.
I have seen firsthand that a vast majority of the Israeli people want an end to this conflict that literally surrounds them. Never again do they want to explore this lose-lose decision: Leave a soldier behind, or negotiate with terrorists.
Follow The Megaphone on Twitter.
JOIN TheRebel.media for more news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else.