Paul Greenberg

Gilad Shalit will have been rescued at the price of many more Gilad Shalits in the future now that the price for one Sergeant Shalit has been established: 1,027 terrorists. Payable on demand.

Even as the Palestinian prisoners were being released to jubilant cheers in the Gaza Strip, aka Hamasland, the mobs were chanting: "The people want a new Gilad!"

Odds are they'll get one to exchange. Dead or alive, for the Israelis, like the Marines, have this thing about reclaiming their dead, too.

Whether it's the Reagan administration sending arms to Iran or Benjamin Netanyahu's releasing a thousand and more terrorists from Israeli prisons, the old slogan about "No negotiations with terrorists!" has proven hollow once again.

In Israel, one needn't go into detail about terror and its cost. One word, one name of a bombed-out pizza parlor, nightclub or hotel is enough to bring back the whole bloody scene. Sbarro, Hillel, the Dolphinarium, Matza, Maxim, the Park Hotel. ... Bar Mitzvahs, Passover seders, ice cream parlors, bus stops, no civilian target was immune. The purpose of terror, as Comrade Lenin once explained, is to terrorize. Nothing more. Or less.

Not till the Israelis erected their fence -- uh, security barrier -- did the killings abate. Even mentioning the number of a bus that was blown apart -- Egged 16, 37, 5 -- will bring back images of the blood and gore, and the men in black hats and long beards who make it their business to pick up every severed limb or piece of flesh at the scene in order to observe the commandment about giving the dead a decent burial.

Whatever the Israelis' misgivings about the deal that freed Sergeant Shalit, another commandment -- a product of the long and painful history of this people -- took precedence over every other consideration, including the simple common sense of never negotiating with terrorists. You shall ransom the captive.

It may be only a matter of time before the real price of this one Israeli soldier's release will be known. Those who go out rejoicing at Gilad Shalit's release may return soon enough weeping over the next Gilad's seizure. Or death.

In other lopsided exchanges, the Israelis have exchanged hundreds of prisoners for the corpse of one of their boys. Nice people they're dealing with. But deal they will, which may be why there will be more captives on the market. Call it the cost of belonging to a people who have been told to choose life.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.