The most common justification for the Shalit deal is to wear it as a perverse badge of moral nobility. "What other country would exchange a thousand terrorists for one man." This is a close cousin of the argument that says the United States treating terrorists with kid gloves proves that it is nobler than them. Both of these insufferable arguments are symptoms of the moral decline of civilization.
If the life of a single soldier is more important than the battle, then why have battles or soldiers at all? We don't send soldiers out to fight because we think that their lives are worthless, but because the objective of war is to save even more lives than those that will be lost in fighting it. Or to preserve that liberty and independence from enemy oppression which are the qualities that make life worthwhile.
There is nothing to be proud of in a moral confusion that puts the soldier before the battle. Even less in a country whose commanders and politicians think nothing of sacrificing soldiers in order to preserve the lives of enemy civilians.
All the kvelling over Gilad Shalit would be a trifle less dishonest if the pundits, politicians and generals did not believe that sending a dozen boys like Shalit into battle without air and artillery support to avoid harming enemy civilians was also evidence of moral superiority.
If the moral equations say that the life of Gilad Shalit is worth a major national defeat and that the life of a Gilad Shalit is worth less than that of an enemy civilian, then it's no wonder that the terrorists are thriving. Israel's own idiot elites have laid out a formula under which the IDF must lose every battle to preserve the nation's morality. It's Masada as practiced by left-wing lunatics.
This peacenik logic makes it appearance at rallies protesting against terrorism when someone breaks out into another round of, "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu", to show that we really want peace. Whom do we want peace with? The people killing us. The people we are protesting against. But like teachers' pets we have to keep reminding the teacher that we really are good students.
Armed pacifism is a contradiction in terms. Reluctant warriors who believe that peace is the ideal state are forced to blame the lack of peace on someone else. "We would love to put flowers in our guns and let the birds nest in our cannons, but those people over there keep shooting at us." It's true, but it's also besides the point. Expediency is a weak and unconvincing argument against an ideal.
If you view war as an unfortunate response to violence, while the enemy views war as a moral act-- then the moral weight of the argument will always be on their side.
The Muslims declare that war is their ultimate ambition while the Israelis counter that peace is their ultimate ambition, but they just can't make it work when the other side is trying to kill them. In a rational world they would win the argument. In a world where emotional arguments that appeal to ideals are more compelling than pragmatic 'shades of grey' positions, the people who believe that purity of arms comes from the righteousness of their cause win out over those who believe that purity of arms comes from avoiding killing civilians.
Or take that famous Golda Meir quote. "Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us." The insipid quote assumes that people who love their children don't hate other people. Or don't hate them enough to send their children into battle against them.
Nazi Germany was not a nation full of honor killings and suicide bombers. It may be assumed that they did a reasonably good job of loving their children. That didn't mean that they loved other people's children. It didn't mean that they were unwilling to risk their children to achieve their objectives.
The Islamists have built up an image of a cult of death and there is some truth to that. Islam as ideology disdains the life of the individual, as much as the mass parades of the Nazis or the Communists did. Does that mean Hamas leaders don't love their children?
Suicide bombers rarely come from the ranks of the leadership. The Nablus junkie or the high strung teenager who thinks she wants to die, is a useful tool for Hamas and Fatah leaders. Suicide bombers are no different than the canon fodder in any other war-- taught that their acts make them glorious, when actually it means they were disposable all along.
The assumption that pacifism is the only true form of love is a dangerous one. Take the Golda quote at face value, and you have to question why Israelis send their sons into battle at all? Many of the fathers and mothers of the left no longer do. But if you don't send some of your sons to battle, then all your sons will die anyway, or end up second-class citizens or slaves.
All of Israel is expected to love Gilad Shalit enough to die for him at the hands of the terrorists who are his blood price. But then why must IDF soldiers second-guess themselves in a combat situation to avoid being sent to jail. And why have soldiers been sent to the front line underequipped and without the proper support. Is it really Shalit that the country is expected to be willing to die for, or pacifism? The willingness to deal rather than fight. The Korbanot Shalom, the Sacrifices for Peace, that have defined Israel in the Oslo age. With Yitzchak Rabin, acting out the role of a secular version of the patriarch of that same name, as the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of peace.
There are more rational ways to reword the Golda quote. For example one might say that, "Peace will come when the Arabs do not see any advantage that they can gain for their children by hating us." The New Middle East plan was loosely based around such thinking. So is the One State Solution. Eliminate any practical reasons for the hate by minimizing Israel as an economic and political entity and the hate will stop.
It's a condescending approach that completely ignores the function of such hate for the haters. The Third Reich did not hate Jews for any of the reasons that appear in Mein Kampf, but because hating Jews allowed Nazi Party members to seize their belongings, and gave their supporters an identity. Hating an outside group fulfills that function for Arabs and Muslims, who cling to Anti-Semitism in times of doubt-- and no amount of peace songs will change that.
Arabs and Muslims love their own children by hating Jews. It is a perverse kind of love, but it is love nonetheless. Lacking a meaningful identity beyond the family and the tribe, they build one of hate instead. Hate is what they pass down to their children. Hate is their prophecy for the future. If their children do not hate enough, then they will kill them. Out of a love that is so mixed with hate that there is hardly any difference.
Alternatively one might say. "Peace will come when the Jews love their own children enough to hate the Arabs." It's not a pretty thought, but a relevant one to an Israeli political system where soldiers are sent off to die in avoidable ways for the sake of enemy civilians and Israeli civilians are forced to absorb terrorist attacks by a security establishment that is unwilling to do everything it takes to protect them.
Israeli leaders have treated their own people as "Sacrifices for Peace" in a liberal holocaust, a fire offering to the gods of pacifism and international law. Israeli leaders traded a relative peace for a constant war in the name of what they called peace. But the "Peace Process" had no more to do with peace, than another round of "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" or the withdrawal from Gaza. It was an act of ritual sacrifice for reasons moral and political.
The Shalit exchange was more of the same. One life traded off for many more who will die at the hands of the freed killers. But it was necessary for political and moral reasons. The political reasons are obvious. The moral ones are even more obvious. To remind us that we are better people, no matter what the final cost of that moral morale boost may be.
But true morality isn't found in ritualized self-sacrifice, it's localized in moral priorities. Ritual self-sacrifice is not moral, no matter how much it may seem that way in the light of the cameras. It is profoundly immoral to act without considering the consequences and all the rationalizations in the world do not change that.
"Peace will come when the Jews love their own children more than they need to be loved by their enemies." That is perhaps the most rational formulation of the Golda quote. And it seems as equally hopeless an expectation as Golda's original quote.
The Muslim world expresses its dysfunction by violently rejecting the outside world and the free world expresses it by seeking external validation. The collision between the two is the essence of liberal dysfunction which makes the way that we treat outsiders into its highest standard of morality and then abuses its own people to showcase its broken telescopic morality.
If we must feed rabid dogs and starve our own children to show how moral we are, then only through such suicidal behavior will we ever feel good that we are truly good people. If the essence of feeling good about ourselves is to feel bad about ourselves, and to feel good by feeling bad, then we become the ASHamed Jews of Jacobson's novel, The Finkler Question, who find redemption in this warped form of Jewish identity.
This isn't morality or ethics, but a mockery of them that twists them to the furthest possible extreme until they become a suicide pact. But the balance of power is on the side of the suicides who have the purity of idealism on their side. And everyone to the right of them huddles in their shadow, devising weak compromise arguments that fail against the extremity of their positions.
By accepting the moral validity of the pacifist argument on any level, the purity of any extreme form of that has also been validated. Accepting the pacifist argument nullifies the morality of self-defense and paradoxically means that only those who reject it have morality on their side.
The terrorists who have never accepted that position in any way, shape or form have become the heroes of the left. Their very rejection of peace testifies to their credibility as their intractability proves their suffering and their ideals. Conversely the more Israelis talk of peace, the more they discredit their own moral case. Once you admit that you would rather not die for your ideals or your country, then you have lost the emotional argument to those who will.