It’s not over

It’s not over

Israeli army Sgt. Gilad Shalit’s release after more than five years as a hostage of Hamas came as joyful news to Jews the world over, even more so to the Shalit family, which has been dwelling in a protest tent outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem for a year to draw attention to their son’s plight.
But let’s not let our joy go to our heads; the Shalit episode is far from over. The repercussions of this prolonged incident will be felt for years to come.
The price of Shalit’s release was high — more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners, many of them murderers. Many of them could come back to haunt Israel, and Diaspora Jews, with a new round of terrorism. To be sure, past Israeli governments have released even more prisoners in similar swaps. But this is not about precedent; this is about security.
Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006. Now that that action has born fruit for Hamas, are other Israeli soldiers guarding the border with Gaza at risk? How will the government protect them? What will the cost be?
Diplomatically, we may never know for sure what pressure the Obama administration placed on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make the deal, or on Egypt to broker it. But now that it’s over, what might the White House expect in return?
Arguably, with Israel more isolated in the region than at any time since the Yom Kippur War, now may have been the last serious chance to secure Shalit’s freedom. Before long, Egypt could elect a government openly hostile to Israel and the long-standing peace treaty between the two countries. Had that happened while Shalit remained a hostage, what border could the young soldier have crossed on his way to freedom, as he did on Tuesday?
But that doesn’t mean his release creates a new chance for peace. For now, Israelis are euphoric about Shalit’s homecoming. That euphoria could turn to rage if it is determined that former Palestinian prisoners are conducting terrorist activities against the Jewish state. What will that mean for public support for any future peace effort? Will new governments take risks for peace or will they take hard lines?
We’re not saying Netanyahu should not have made this deal. Judaism is clear on the subject of pidyon shvuyim (redemption of hostages). Perhaps that is why there have been so many lopsided prisoner swaps in the past. Besides, no one can argue that Shalit and his family haven’t suffered enough.
But let’s temper our joy with sobering reality. Difficult issues lay ahead directly or indirectly linked to Shalit’s captivity. For those challenges, Israel, and Jews everywhere, must be prepared.