Sunday, June 27, 2010

Negotiating With Terrorists

June 27th, 1976, 36 years ago today, Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France plane from Tel Aviv to Entebbe, in Uganda. The hijackers demanded that Israel free 55 jailed terrorists in return for the 105 passengers. On July 4th the IDF stormed the Entebbe airport and freed all but one of the hostages (Dora Bloch had been taken to a hospital and was killed after the raid).

It's an interesting but idle exercise to wonder how such a raid would be reported today.

Anyway, that was then. A few days ago we marked the glum 4th anniversary of Gilad Shalit's capture and disappearance into Gaza. This morning his family set off on a highly publicized 12-day march from their home in the Galilee to Jerusalem, meant to pressure the government to pay whatever price Hamas is demanding for their son's liberation - something like 1000 terrorists, some of them convicted mass murderers. They enjoy significant public support.

Amit Segal, a Channel Two journalist, recently wrote an MA thesis about the turnaround in Israel's policy regarding negotiating with terrorists for the liberation of hostages. It has been about as total a change as imaginable: but why?

I haven't read the thesis, only a short summary of it which was published over the weekend in Haaretz (Hebrew, apparently not online), so I haven't seen the full argument. The synopsis, however, suggest that the main difference is that in the past, Israeli governments faced terrorist organizations committed to Israel's destruction and perceived as illegitimate negotiation partners; since the 1980s, however, the holders of the hostages have been perceived as at least partially legitimate interlocutors, so Israel preferred to negotiate rather than risk loss of life. Segal reinforces his thesis by noting that as far back as 1956 Israel had no problem exchanging 4000 Egyptian PoWs for four Israelis, as Egypt, although an enemy, was perceived as a legitimate negotiating party.

Perhaps. I don't have an explanation, myself, nor do I have a clear position (though I can't even begin to imagine the pain of the Shalit family, as Hamas systematically tortures them year after year in contravention of humanity and - for what it's worth - international law). I do wonder, however, what makes Hamas more legitimate a negotiating party than the PLO of the 1970s, both of which were openly committed to the destruction of Israel through the murder of its citizens.

Segal may be right in that Israel negotiates with greater ease now than then - not that the results are any better, sadly. It may however also be the case that the enemies have grown crueler, if possible. Israelis held as PoWs in Egypt or even Syria were visited - eventually - by the ICRC; their families missed them horribly but knew where they were and had some degree of contact with them. These days, Israelis in the hands of its enemies disappear totally. In the case of Ron Arad, who fell into the hands of Hezbullah in 1987, he was simply never seen again, and no-one will ever even know when he was killed or where he's buried.


Avram said...

While we did return all hostages bar Bloch as you mentioned, unfortunately 3 were returned in body bags (names courtesy of Wikipedia):

The three passengers killed were:

1. Jean-Jacques Maimoni
2. Pasco Cohen
3. Ida Borochovitch

Shavoah Tov

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Did you see this from Uri Avnery?

Smelly, as usual, but interesting.

NormanF said...

There's an excellent chance the Stupid Jews will get Shalit back in a body bag. Liquidate the most dangerous terrorists first and ship them back with the rest to Hamas in an exchange. That seems like a fair trade to me.

Anonymous said...

in the "run-up" of his piece Uri Avnery's use of "they" struck me as odd
- for him there seems to be a clear division of a state that is "I/we" as compared to a state that is "they". Perfectly acceptable when I moan privately about let's say taxes, but when I moan about national security??? in the ol' times they had ugly words for such mind-sets.

The Red Cross excuse is no excuse at all (and the "west" buys it rather than admit the extent of the humiliation we are subjected to - sucking up to thugs leaves one after all with the "nice" illusion of having saved face)
given Hamas' expertise in building tunnels they could have ways of getting Shalit to a meeting with the Red Cross, if they wanted to or if they were as ingenious as they claim to be.
So it is either one for them: prove that there is one just one field where you are at the top of technology and ingeniousness and creativity or admit that you are thugs.

I managed to read about half of the Avnery-thing - too loghorrea-ic for me
(yes I know I'm one of those also, but I'm not a pro and don't aim at becoming one
- though I have hopes that Ibrahim is about to delude himself that I am an Israeli "official";-)


Didi Remez said...

If it's not online Yaacov, how did you come to read it? Wasn't it just Friday that you told me that's the only way you read Hasretz?

Yaacov said...

No Didi, that's not what I said. As often, you don't read carefully.

Anonymous said...

how about this:
Yaacov went out to buy som frozen food and wrapped it in a lie around newspaper, while carrying it home he couldn't help reading the piece, then checked for our benefit the online edition.
This btw is only one of innumerable possible scenarios which are familiar to novel readers all over the world.


Rabbi Tony Jutner said...

This MA thesis is only partially correct. Not only does israel (and the whole world) regard Hamas and Hezbollah as legitimate entities, israelis increasing see themselves (and the rest of the world agrees) that the apartheid zionist entity is illegitimate. Thus, it is an honor for the apartheid zionist entity to gain kavod from Hamas and Hezbollah because they actually get their hands dirty and negotiate with the zionists


Yaacov said...

Actually, Silke, the truth is even funnier. Someday I'll tell the story, and then it will be clear why I don't do so now. In the meantime, poor Didi is trying to catch me in inaccuracies and other fibs. Since I'm human sooner or later he'll probably succeed, but he isn't having much luck yet. Still, I suppose I should be tickled that he tries.

Yaacov said...

Rabbi, may I ask how this Amandla got into your comment? You need to be careful no-one hijacks your false identity, you know.

Bryan said...

Who, exactly, is "the rest of the world?" A bunch of Islamist dictators and their inodctrinated masses, and the stupid Westerners who agree with them out of gullibility or fear? Everyone has an opinion on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but you know something about "everyone?" The majority of "everyone" are actually uneducated and uninformed.

I don't care that "everyone" thinks Israel is illegitimate. "Everyone" also thinks that "irregardless" is a word. But "irregardless" (and its abominable friend, "could care less") is still not a word, and Israel is still legitimate.

Now I need to wash out my mouth because Rav Jutner's comments make me taste bile.

Sérgio said...

Rabbi Amandla needs to be more careful.

Ah, the poetic justice...

Anonymous said...


I don't get it ????

Google tells me this is Kavod


Bryan said...

Silke: "kavod" is Hebrew for "honor" (as I understand it). "Kol ha'kavod" ("all the honor") is a pretty common expression meaning "good job" or "congratulations." Thus, Rav Jutner was talking about Israel trying to get kudos or laurels from Hamas or Hizbullah.

This also brings me to an interesting linguistic question for Yaacov: Yaacov, is there any difference between the usage of "kol ha'kavod" and "mazal tov?" Do Israelis use "mazal tov" as much as American Jews do?

Anonymous said...

thanks Bryan

but I had hoped that Tony would consent to comment on the weird "kavot" Google offered as one of its first results. ;-)))

maybe he still does, if he really is a rabbi, he should have to say a lot about it (of course my only in depth exposure to a rabbi is Kemelman's David who, however, endeared the profession to me for life)


Yaacov said...

Interesting question, Bryan. Kol hakavod is, as you say, like "job well done" - isn't that what John McCain said to Obama the day he was nominated? Mazal tov means congratulations. The first connotes a bit more the culmination of an effort, the second a celebration of an event. You say mazal tov at a wedding, but you might, just maybe, say kol hakavod to the man who successfully wooed a very popular young woman to marry him, even tho he's as ugly as a kettle. You might say mazal tov to a businessman who has just landed a major bid, but it would be more accurate to say kol hakavod, since he worked very hard to make it happen.

Also, whenever someone accidentally breaks a plate of glass, everyone immediately says mazal tov - not kol hakavod. (I think this originally stems from some superstition, but to me it always seems mostly simply humorous).

I don't know if American Jews say mazal tov more, or differently, than Hebrew-speaking Israelis.

Anonymous said...


my mother was firmly convinced that whenever something out of glass broke that evil would follow and tension would only ease after something bad enough to qualify had happened.

The Merksatz (remember phrase) goes

"Glück und Glas, wie leicht bricht das"

(luck/happyness and glass how easy do they break)
Might that be a belief that has entered teutonic folklore via the Jewish wedding ceremony where I've been told you break a glass?


Bryan said...

Ah, thanks Yaacov. That's how I understood the difference between "kol ha'kavod" and "mazal tov," and I'm glad that was confirmed.

I don't know how Hebrew-speaking Israelis say mazal tov, but people in my shul (which is Conservative) tend to say "maZAL TOV" (as in, with the same syllabic stress as Modern Hebrew) when in large groups, but they say "MAZl tav" (with the Yiddish syllabic stress on the penultimate syllable) when alone. This is true even of the younger generation (who otherwise follow Modern Hebrew pronunciation). "MAZl tav" tends to be the American understanding of how the phrase is rendered; even my extremely Gentile family understands that pronunciation.

I think that American Jews tend to prefer mazal tov over kol ha'kavod, because whenever college/high school graduations are listed in the shul newsletter, the text reads, "a big mazal tov to XXXX for YYYYY accomplishment!" That's just my observation, though, and it might be different among slightly more Israel-oriented American Jews.