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Israel's Difficult Decision

6:01 PM, Oct 17, 2011 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Finally, this policy has deep roots in Jewish history: The ransoming of captives has been practiced by Jews for many centuries and has been regarded as a greater obligation than charity for the poor. It is explicit that even precious religious articles can be sold to obtain funds for gaining the retrieval of captives.

The same religious tradition holds that it is wrong to "overpay" for captives lest kidnappers and enemies be given a greater incentive to take prisoners. So whether in ancient or medieval times or today's state of Israel, the dilemmas cannot be escaped. The dangers and contradictions exist, but, unlike us, Israelis cannot just debate them: they must make decisions. And so they have. Their policy is not ours, as their situation is not ours. But those who think the determination to free Gilad Shalit wrong have at least as heavy a burden—and in humanitarian terms a greater one—to bear than those who believe Israel's government made the right decision.

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