There is a difference between public and private morality.
You cannot incarcerate people that the state is required to incarcerate. You cannot injure people that the state is required to injure. Nor, can you kill the people that the state is required to kill.
It would be immoral for the government to tell the truth about certain things – when it would be immoral for people to lie. It would be immoral for a private citizen to extort money from a neighbor, but we give this power to the government for the good of everyone.
And, that’s the point, isn’t it? The public good.
The state is routinely required to act against the few in ways that many would consider immoral or unethical – for the greater good of the many.
For thoseÂ in public office, it can be an agonizing situation.Â You are routinely forced to make immoral decisions forÂ a higher moral purpose.
Up to 1982, Israel had a firm position: Never, EVER made deals with terrorists. NoÂ matter who was kidnapped, no matter where they were kidnapped, IsraelÂ never dealt with terrorists. And, it was a strategy that had been met with success.
The moral delimma was agonizing for Israeli leaders. When school childrenÂ were kidnapped in Ma’alot, they made no deals. When a hotel was ‘hijacked’ there were noÂ deals. When aircraft were hijacked – no deals. TerroristsÂ knew that you could kill Israelis, but you couldn’t get deals from them.
It kept the situationÂ under control.
Then,Â in 1982, Yoshkeh Groff was kidnapped by Ahmed Jibril. Jibril demanded the release of certainÂ Palestinians, in return for Yoshkeh. Israel’s response was predictable: “We don’t do deals.”
No one was prepared for Yoshkeh’s mother, Miriam.
Like all Israeli mothers, she loved herÂ child with a passion, and was prepared to do anything to obtain Yoshkeh’s release. In a recent column, Sara Honig writes:
Miriam made then-defense minister Rabin’s life a misery. She hounded him, organized demonstrations, happenings, performances, anything. Finally the national unity government under Shimon Peres contracted the ignominious transaction that liberated Yoskeh in May 1985, but flung open the floodgates to a deluge that still engulfs us.
Groff legitimized failure of nerve and increased enemy leverage by helping it to emotionally manipulate anyway soft-hearted Jews, who – unlike Arabs – traditionally value saving lives above all else.
In their book Intifada, Ehud Ya’ari and the recently departed, much respected Ze’ev Schiff determined that “over a third of all those set loose in the Jibril deal renewed terrorist activity within a year. The rest joined after the eruption of the intifada’s first wave of hostilitiesâ€¦ in time Jibril crowed, justly, that his deal sowed the intifada’s seeds.”
The upheaval Yoskeh’s mom triggered caused Israelis to shun the territories. Minds and hearts were conditioned for Oslo, which subsequently brought us exploding buses, the unilateral flight from Lebanon, the second intifada, the Second Lebanon War, nearly 2,000 dead Israelis and thousands maimed, bereaved, orphaned and finally also uprooted in Oslo’s disastrously derivative disengagement.
It would have been immoral for the State of Israel to not do what it could to obtain the release ofÂ Yoshkeh Groff – but, not at the cost of so many others. The good of the one should never have been allowed to outweigh the good of so many others.
THAT is the difference between public and private morality.
Sarah Honig’s article can be found here: