Friday, November 27, 2009
Lt-Col (res) Eckstein Offers 9 Rules for Abductions
In an opinion piece for Arutz Sheva in Hebrew Thursday, Lt-Col (res.) Gershon Eckstein offered nine rules for handling abductions – like that of Sgt. Gilad Shalit and preceding ordeals – and for reducing the effectiveness of subsequent blackmail and psychological warfare by terrorists: 1. As a rule, live terrorists will not be freed in return for soldiers' bodies. Otherwise there is a risk that the lives of abducted soldiers will be deemed expendable.
2. The price tag will be one or two prisoners in exchange for an IDF soldier. It is possible to let the terrorists choose whom they want freed. No more than that.
3. No negotiations will begin before the Red Cross or another authorized body visits the abducted Israeli and provides reliable information of his well being and health.
4. Terrorists with blood on their hands who pose a security risk upon their release will not be freed.
5. The expression “free him at any cost” will be deleted from the national lexicon so as not to sacrifice Israel's strategic and national interests.
6. Despite the fashion regarding “the public's right to know,” a law shall be passed or an ordinance written that will forbid media reports on prisoner swaps, especially during negotiations, and maintain silence on the subject until the deal is finalized. All this is in order to achieve optimal results.
7. Decision makers including the prime minister, ministers and officials dealing directly in the negotiations will be forbidden from meeting the abducted men's families and their representatives until the end of the affair, so as not to place any pressure on the decision makers. Only a person who is not a direct part of the negotiations, who will be appointed by the government, will maintain contact with the families.
8. If a vote is held in the government on approving a swap, the vote should be a secret ballot so that ministers can vote according to their consciences without being influenced by external pressure.
9. The families of abducted individuals should not be a party to the negotiations, and they should not involve the media or engage in lobbying decision makers to persuade them to approve the deal. There should be an agreed code that makes it possible to maintain a distance between the decision makers and the families. With all due empathy for their plight, there should be ground rules regarding contact with them.
An authorized official should be able to look them in the eyes, to hold them close, but to tell them courageously: “We are sorry, dear ones, but this is the situation today, be strong.”
Legislation in this spirit will rein in the public discourse around abductions and reduce the pressure on the government. It may even gradually reduce the enemy's motivation to make use of the weapon of abductions.