No one denies the long suffering of the Schalit family. Noam and Aviva Schalit and their relatives have endured five years and four months of uninterrupted anguish since their son St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit was abducted from his army post by Palestinian terrorists and spirited to Gaza in June 2006. Since then, aside from one letter and one videotaped message, they have received no signs of life from their soldier son.
There is not a Jewish household in Israel that doesn't empathize with their suffering. It isn't simply that most Israelis serve in the IDF and expect their children to serve in the IDF.
It isn't just that it could happen to any of our families.
As Jews, the concept of mutual responsibility, that we are all a big family and share a common fate, is ingrained in our collective consciousness. And so, at a deep level, the Schalit family's suffering is our collective suffering.
And yet, and yet, freedom exacts its price. The cause of freedom for the Jewish people as a whole exacts a greater sacrifice from some families than from others.
Sometimes, that sacrifice is made willingly, as in the case of the Netanyahu family.
Prof. Benzion and Tzilla Netanyahu raised their three sons to be warriors in the fight for Jewish liberty. And all three of their sons served in an elite commando unit. Their eldest son Yonatan had the privilege of commanding the unit and of leading Israeli commandos in the heroic raid to free Jewish hostages held by the PLO in Entebbe.
There, on July 4, 1976, Yonatan and his family made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of the Jewish people. Yonatan was killed in action. His parents and brothers were left to mourn and miss him for the rest of their lives. And yet, the Netanyahu family's sacrifice was a product of a previous decision to fight on the front lines of the war to preserve Jewish freedom.
Sometimes, the sacrifice is made less willingly.
Since Israel allowed the PLO and its terror armies to move their bases from Tunis to Judea, Samaria and Gaza in 1994, nearly 2,000 Israeli families have involuntarily paid the ultimate price for the freedom of the Jewish people. Our freedom angers our Palestinian neighbors so much that they have decided that all Israelis should die.
For instance Ruth Peled, 56, and her 14- month-old granddaughter Sinai Keinan did not volunteer to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of the Jewish people when they were murdered by a Palestinian suicide bomber as they sat in an ice cream parlor in Petah Tikva in May 2002.
And five-year-old Gal Eisenman and her grandmother Noa Alon, 60, weren't planning on giving their lives for the greater good when they, together with five others, were blown to smithereens by Palestinian terrorists in June 2002 while they were waiting for a bus in Jerusalem.
Their mothers and daughters, Chen Keinan and Pnina Eisenman, had not signed up for the prospect of watching their mothers and daughters incinerated before their eyes. They did not volunteer to become bereaved mothers and orphaned daughters simultaneously.
The lives of the victims of Arab terror were stolen from their families simply because they lived and were Jews in Israel. And in the cases of the Keinan, Peled, Alon and Eisenman families, as in thousands of others, the murderers were the direct and indirect beneficiaries of terrorists-for-hostages swaps like the deal that Yonatan Netanyahu's brother, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, made this week with Hamas to secure the release of Gilad Schalit.
The deal that Netanyahu has agreed to is signed with the blood of the past victims and future victims of the terrorists he is letting go. No amount of rationalization by Netanyahu, his cheerleaders in the demented mass media, and by the defeatist, apparently incompetent heads of the Shin Bet, Mossad and IDF can dent the facts.
IT IS a statistical certainty that the release of 1,027 terrorists for Schalit will lead to the murder of untold numbers of Israelis. It has happened every single time that these blood ransoms have been paid. It will happen now.
Untold numbers of Israelis who are now sitting in their succas and celebrating Jewish freedom, who are driving in their cars, who are standing on line at the bank, who are sitting in their nursery school classrooms painting pictures of Torah scrolls for Simhat Torah will be killed for being Jewish while in Israel because Netanyahu has made this deal. The unrelenting pain of their families, left to cope with their absence, will be unimaginable.
This is a simple fact and it is beyond dispute.
It is also beyond dispute that untold numbers of IDF soldiers and officers will be abducted and held hostage. Soldiers now training for war or scrubbing the floors of their barracks, or sitting at a pub with their friends on holiday leave will one day find themselves in a dungeon in Gaza or Sinai or Lebanon undergoing unspeakable mental and physical torture for years. Their families will suffer inhuman agony.
The only thing we don't know about these future victims is their names. But we know what will become of them as surely as we know that night follows day.
Netanyahu has proven once again that taking IDF soldiers hostage is a sure bet for our Palestinian neighbors. They can murder the next batch of Sinais and Gals, Noas and Ruths. They can kill thousands of them. And they can do so knowing all along that all they need to do to win immunity for their killers is kidnap a single IDF soldier.
There is no downside to this situation for those who believe all Jews should die.
In his public statement on the Schalit deal Tuesday night, Netanyahu, like his newfound groupies in the media, invoked the Jewish tradition of pidyon shevuim, or the redemption of captives. But the Talmudic writ is not unconditional. The rabbinic sages were very clear. The ransom to be paid cannot involve the murder of other Jews.
This deal - like its predecessors - is not in line with Jewish tradition. It stands in opposition to Jewish tradition. Even in our darkest hours of powerlessness in the ghettos and the pales of exile, our leaders did not agree to pay for a life with other life. Judaism has always rejected human sacrifice.
The real question here is after five years and four months in which Schalit has been held hostage and two-and-a-half years into Netanyahu's current tenure as prime minister, why has the deal been concluded now? What has changed? The answer is that very little has changed on Netanyahu's part. After assuming office, Netanyahu essentially accepted the contours of the abysmal agreement he has now signed in Jewish blood.
Initially, there was a political rationale for his morally and strategically perverse position.
He had Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Labor Party to consider.
Supporting this deal was one of the many abject prices that Netanyahu was expected to pay to keep Labor and Barak in his coalition.
But this rationale ended with Barak's resignation from the Labor Party in January.
Since then, Barak and his colleagues who joined him in leaving Labor have had no political leverage over Netanyahu.
They have nowhere to go. Their political life is wholly dependent on their membership in Netanyahu's government. He doesn't need to pay any price for their loyalty.
So Netanyahu's decision to sign the deal with Hamas lacks any political rationale.
WHAT HAS really changed since the deal was first put on the table two years ago is Hamas's position. Since the Syrian people began to rise up against the regime of Hamas's patron and protector President Bashar Assad, Hamas's leaders, who have been headquartered in Syria since 1998, have been looking for a way to leave. Their Muslim Brotherhood brethren are leading forces in the Western-backed Syrian opposition.
Hamas's leaders do not want to be identified with the Brotherhood's oppressor.
With the Egyptian military junta now openly massacring Christians, and with the Muslim Brotherhood rapidly becoming the dominant political force in the country, Egypt has become a far more suitable home for Hamas.
But for the past several months, Hamas leaders in Damascus have faced a dilemma. If they stay in Syria, they lose credibility. If they leave, they expose themselves to Israel.
According to Channel 2, in exchange for Schalit, beyond releasing a thousand murderers, Netanyahu agreed to give safe passage to Hamas's leaders decamping to Egypt.
What this means is that this deal is even worse for Israel than it looks on the surface.
Not only is Israel guaranteeing a reinvigoration of the Palestinian terror war against its civilians by freeing the most experienced terrorists in Palestinian society, and doing so at a time when the terror war itself is gradually escalating. Israel is squandering the opportunity to either decapitate Hamas by killing its leaders in transit, or to weaken the group by forcing its leaders to go down with Assad in Syria.
At best, Netanyahu comes out of this deal looking like a weak leader who is manipulated by and beholden to Israel's radical, surrender-crazed media. To their eternal shame, the media have been waging a five-year campaign to force Israel's leaders to capitulate to Hamas.
At worst, this deal exposes Netanyahu as a morally challenged, strategically irresponsible and foolish, opportunistic politician.
What Israel needs is a leader with the courage of one writer's convictions. Back in 1995, that writer wrote: "The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmail situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best.
"Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse."
The writer of those lines was then-opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu wrote those lines in his book, Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists.
Israel needs that Netanyahu to lead it. But in the face of the current Netanyahu's abject surrender to terrorism, apparently he is gone.