It's the thirtieth anniversary today of one of the bravest, most creative rescue missions ever: the saving of most of the Entebbe hostages in 1976. The anniversary reports in the media this week emphasize the individual courage of the Israelis who made it possible, and the creativity of the planners and leaders of the rescue. They remind us of the central role that luck - good and bad - played in the amazing episode. They also remind us of how much mis-reporting there was at the time, including a complete cover-up of the active role which the Ugandan and other authorities at the time played in supporting the hijack and providing the German and Arab terrorists with indispensable logistical and practical support.
Israelis of every stripe are anxiously watching what happens in and around Gaza this morning.
The terrorists who grabbed and dragged an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit (pictured above) from Israel into Gaza last week are the spiritual heirs to the hijackers of Entebbe. Theirs was no military manouevre; no strategic goal is at stake here other than another in an endless series of attempts to undermine the confidence and sense of security and well-being of Israeli society, and demonstrating that when it comes to jihadism, anything goes. We don't need to spend much time analyzing the terrorists and their motivations, because we have so little to learn from them.
But what about the side-shows? Not much changes.
- Hamas, saying it wishes to resolve the hostage crisis and bring the Israeli teenager home safely, offers this advice: the way "to protect his life and solve the problem [is] through calm diplomatic channels... We reiterate the necessity to resolve this problem with logic and wisdom". So the keys are in our hands. Logic. Wisdom. Diplomacy. The cynical Hamas message recalls the words of Ugandan despot (the media did not call him that at the time) Idi Amin. Rescued hostages say he had a similar devotion to logic, wisdom and diplomacy. According to a Jerusalem Post account, "Amin visited the hostages a number of times, telling them with jolly tones and waving shalom that he was appointed by G-d and was their friend. Their release, he said, was dependent not on him, but on the Israeli government's ability to be reasonable and release 53 Palestinian 'freedom fighters' from jails, primarily in Israel, but also held in France, Germany, Switzerland and Kenya." While dispensing this jovial advice, Amin arranged for hundreds of his troops to guard the airport terminal - against a possible rescue. Thank you, President Amin. You taught us a valuable lesson.
- Back then, the breathtaking Israeli rescue produced a depressingly familiar diplomatic reaction that is mostly forgotten today: a resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Israel for its "act of aggression". Yes, aggression. Yesterday, the government of Switzerland declared sonorously that "a number of actions by the Israel Defense Forces in their offensive against the Gaza Strip have violated the principle of proportionality and are to be seen as forms of collective punishment, which is forbidden". Proportionality, we've noticed, is one of those extremely subjective metrics that changes size the further you are from the party accused of doing it. Not to be left behind, Indonesia has cancelled its tennis game against Israel.
- Also on the international relations front: the Palestinian Justice Ministry says this morning (via the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi) that they are filing a petition against Israel with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They say Israeli air strikes against government buildings, power stations and a school in the Gaza Strip are blatant violations of international law. Strangely they say nothing about jihadist attacks on schools, restaurants, buses and hitch-hiking posts. Having personally been at The Hague when the Palestinians last sent lawyers there to bludgeon Israel (at the World Court hearings into the legality of the Israeli security barrier in 2004), we can only salute their strategic thinking; this kind of tactic works. When it comes to The Hague, the old Australian advertising slogan is as true as ever: "When you're on a good thing, stick to it."
- The positive resolution of the Entebbe hijacking was not the end of Arab terrorism in the seventies. It was more like the beginning and was rapidly followed by many other outrages. Here, the snatching of Gilad Shalit, the cold murder of Eliyahu Asheri, have been framed before, after and during by ongoing shooting attacks on civilians and missile firings into any accessible part of Israel. This morning, Gaza Palestinian terrorists fire three Qassams into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. One lands near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and two in open fields near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. (These are neither military targets nor disputed territory. They are simply Israel.)
- Israeli Arab members of the Knesset made their contribution yesterday to the national anxiety. Having been asked by parliamentary colleagues to add their voices and moral weight to calls by most Knesset members for the release of Gilad Shalit, they refused, preferring instead to call on their Palestinian brethren to extend an ultimatum issued earlier Monday so there could be more time to broker a "prisoner" swap - the kidnapped soldier for terrorists like our daughter's murderer. In plain words, an expression of confidence in the terror gangs and their strategy. MK Mohammed Barakeh expressed their position with his usual straight talk to a fellow MK: "I won't do anything at your request." Our taxes at work.