Gilad Schalit is home. And that is wonderful. The terrorists Israel released in exchange for the IDF soldier held hostage by Hamas for more than five years are running around Judea, Samaria and Gaza promising to return to terror. And that is a nightmare.
But so far, the Israeli public is happy with the outcome. Indeed, the polling data on the government's decision to swap 1,027 terrorists for Schalit are stunning.
According to the New Wave poll carried out for Makor Rishon, for instance, 75.7 percent of the public supported the deal and only 15.5 percent opposed it. In a society as rife with internal divisions as Israel, it is hard to think of any issue that enjoys the support of three quarters of the population. But even more amazing than the level of support is that the poll also shows the vast majority of Israelis believe that the deal harms Israel's national security.
Sixty-one-and-a-half percent of respondents believe the deal increases the Palestinians' motivation to commit acts of terror. Only 23.4 percent disagree.
The New Wave poll's results are in line with the polling data reported by other firms. Down the line, the numbers are consistent: Three quarters of the public supported the deal and two-thirds of the public said it endangers the country. What this means is that two-thirds of the public listened to their hearts instead of their heads in supporting the Schalit-for-murderers swap.
How can this triumph of emotion over reason be explained? Israelis are not a society of overgrown adolescents, enslaved by their urges. So what brought a large majority of Israelis to favor a deal they know endangers them?
Part of the answer was provided in an article in the Globes newspaper on Monday. Titled "Lucky the kidnapping happened in the technological era" and written by Anat Bein-Leibovitz, it analyzed the five-year advertising campaign that shaped public perceptions about Schalit and built public support for a deal that obviously harms the country.
The Shalmor Avnon Amichai firm ran the campaign to free Schalit. Shlomi Avnon, a partner in the agency, described the goals of the campaign as follows: "The first goal was to generate empathy for Gilad and his family. We did not know when the government needed to make a decision, but we wanted the Schalit family to enjoy wide public support when a decision came. It was clear that Gilad's return would be at a high price to Israel, and in order to make sure that Gilad would be returned, it was critical that there should be public support to put pressure on the government.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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