There are many beautiful theories about how to bring Gilad Shalit home, but it’s an ugly fact that he now has been a captive for three years. And it’s an ugly fact that a series of Israeli governments have been unable to free him. Both diplomatic and military means have failed so far. Shalit’s family and friends blame the government for not doing enough, as do many Israelis. Others, including army officers, diplomats and the families of terror victims, argue that not every price is worth paying. Gilad, they say, does not stand alone; his life is not worth more than the lives of others.
If I were Gilad Shalit’s father, I would do everything in my power to persuade Israel’s leaders to free my son at any price. I’d be a poor father if I did anything less. If I were a government official or army officer involved in the effort to free him, I’d be telling those same leaders the opposite. I’d remind them that, whatever the political pressures they face, and whatever their empathy for the plight of this one young man, they must take into account the consequences that any military operation or diplomatic deal inevitably would have for the security of Israel’s citizens, the lives of its other soldiers and Israel’s position when facing similar situations in the future. I’d be a poor policy adviser if I did anything less.
That’s why the ugly fact of Gilad Shalit’s long years in captivity leaves me frustrated and nonplused. I’m not Gilad’s father, but I am the father of a soldier. As such, I cannot escape the possibility that my son might fall prisoner to one of Israel’s enemies. My academic training in public policy lies many years in my past, but the ethos of dispassionate, objective and rational analysis of policy options that I learned as an undergraduate remains the foundation of my thinking about public affairs.
One of our required first-year courses was in rational decision-making theory. The professor opened the first class with the question, “How much money is a human life worth?”….
Read the rest in The Forward–Comment there or here.