Sunday, July 02, 2006

The 1000-for-1 Offer

Although I was tempted to put up a roundup tonight, simply because there were a lot of great posts out there, I am forcing myself not to, as I'm still really on vacation. (Can't you tell? No? Yeah, me either.) However, I felt compelled to comment on this subject, as I've seen so many people discussing it, so...

Many bloggers and news media have been discussing the supposed offer Hamas made to Israel in exchange for the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit. Hamas apparently offered to return Shalit in exchange for the release of 1,000 prisoners - terrorists who are sitting in Israeli jails for crimes they committed or helped to be committed against Israel.

Israel's response was quick and obvious: They will never agree to such an exchange, as such an exchange would only result in more kidnappings in the future. This is true, this is obvious, and Israel is taking the proper approach in this regard.

But let's think about the offer for a moment: Hamas offered one Israeli life in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian lives. What is the obvious conclusion one can make from such an offer? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but to me this means two things (which are similar but different):
1) Hamas feels that the life of an Israeli is so important to Israel that they would consider trading 1,000 jailed terrorists and their ilk for that one life. In fact, Hamas is correct in this regard. The reason Israel will not negotiate such a deal is not because they don't value the life of Shalit to that extent, but rather because they understand that it is simply trading Shalit's life for the lives of others.

2) Hamas recognizes that the value of one Israeli life is worth 1,000 Palestinian lives. Forget for a moment that the Palestinians are consistently willing to sacrifice their own people's lives simply to kill Jews (via suicide bombings) - Hamas in this case will accept only 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. That means, in simple terms, that unless they are receiving 1,000 prisoners they don't feel they are getting their money's worth. This is because they understand that (1) is true: Israel does value the lives of its people.
The question becomes... should Israel employ this value system which Hamas has brought into the discussion? Should Israel fight Hamas on the basis of Hamas' value system, which means that every Israeli life is worth 1,000 Palestinian lives? I am not suggesting that Israel indiscriminately target 1,000 Palestinians every time an Israeli is murdered; I'm merely noting that Israel cannot fight an enemy as if they value human life to the same extent we do when in fact they do not - not at all.

It is for this reason that I particularly enjoyed WBM's post last week which stated:
There is no lose in this scenario, because the terrorists don't value the same things we do.

So how do you proceed in this kind of a war? You figure out how to change it from win/win to lose. You figure out what the other side really values and you go after it.
It is also why some of Israel's actions this week, while on the surface confounding, actually make incredible sense. Israel is very clearly going about its business this week - without killing or injuring almost anyone (at last count, two terrorists have been killed and one injured in extremely precise attacks). They have captured a small but sizeable portion of the Hamas legislature and threatened to take out the elected prime minister of the Palestinians, Ismail Haniyah, and destroyed the main bridges and crossings along with the Interior Ministry and other Palestinian government buildings - again, without casualties. They have threatened to bomb more targets, but have started dropping leaflets in Arabic advising people to stay away from those areas.

Why is this? It seems that Israel is demonstrating some points to both the Palestinians and the rest of the world. To the Palestinians it is saying simply:
"These are the people you elected. If you care about them, and care to have a government, then you will make sure that they do as you want - and that better be in line with what we want - or you will no longer have a government."
To the rest of the world it is stating:
"These are the elected representatives of the Palestinian people. If, as you claim, they should be treated as such, then we are willing to hold them completely responsible for all actions taken by their people against our own. If, as you claim, they cannot control the people they represent, then they are a worthless government entity and there exists no Palestinian government with which we must negotiate with, and we will take action as we see fit.

You cannot have it both ways. Which one will it be?"
I, for one, am very interested in hearing the world's - and the Palestinians' - answer.