South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Mideast Tension : Israelis place high value on even one life. By Ofer Bavly,0,6633092.story

South Florida

Mideast Tension : Israelis place high value on even one life

Ofer Bavly

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

September 27, 2009

Three weeks ago, the parents of Gilad Shalit marked his 24th birthday, but he wasn’t there to celebrate. Gilad Shalit, abducted from Israeli territory by Hamas terrorists while serving in the Israel Defense Forces and standing watch over the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, has spent the last 40 months in captivity.

All international humanitarian laws as well as moral standards and basic decency have been trodden upon by Gilad’s captors. In over three years of captivity, they have allowed absolutely no access to him – neither to his family nor to the Red Cross or any other humanitarian organization. Like any common criminal organization, they are demanding a high ransom for the release of this young man.

The ransom that Hamas demands is the release of over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists presently serving jail sentences in Israel, guilty of having killed innocent Israelis in terrorist bombings or planning and helping to carry out such attacks.

One cannot escape the irony of this situation: 1,000 terrorists and radicals are serving prison sentence after having stood a fair and just trial, represented by lawyers. They had recourse to a due process of the law. Their families have full visitation rights and the prisoners enjoy a list of privileges including correspondence with their families, the receipt of packages from them, access to television, computers and telephones, and granted the most humane treatment.

At the same time, in Gaza, there is a young Israeli man, in isolation for over three years. All his rights are denied and no sign of life has been given to his parents. He was never accused of anything, never tried for anything.

And yet, despite these blatantly asymmetrical circumstances, a deal may very well be near, in which Hamas will release Gilad Shalit in exchange for close to 1,000 convicted terrorists.

We know that many of them will return to their terrorist activities. We know that they will perpetuate the cycle of violence. And we know that there will be more attempts to kidnap Israelis and to exchange them for terrorists.

Unfortunately, this is the neighborhood we live in and this is the people we are facing on the other side of the fence. People who do not respect nor value human life and liberty – people who send suicide bombers to kill themselves in Israeli cities and towns, fueled by an inconceivable hatred that blinds them to the possibility of actually reaching an agreement with Israel.

Gilad was not home for Rosh Ha-Shana, the Jewish New Year. Hopefully, he will get to celebrate his 24th birthday with his parents. The price that Israel will pay for that to happen will be a heavy one.

Thousands of Israeli victims of terrorism will be offended when they see their attackers set free. Such is the value that we place on the life of every single one of our citizens.

When the day comes and the Palestinians value their own lives as much as we do, we will have true peace between our peoples.

Ofer Bavly is Consul General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.

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