A bad deal

The government of Israel has entered into an agreement with Hamas to exchange 1,027 Arabs including 477 convicted terrorists for the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit is headed home today. That’s great.

The exchange, however, seems to me revolting and misguided. Understandable, but mistaken. Supporters of Israel such as Jonathan Tobin, over at Commentary, and Elliott Abrams, over at the Weekly Standard, have rationalized the deal, but their arguments seem hollow and unpersuasive to me. If the Israeli public supports the deal, as it apparently does, the Israeli public is, in my opinion, mistaken. It is a bad deal.

According to the sources cited in the October 17 edition of the Daily Alert prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs for the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the list of prisoners to be released in exchange for Shalit includes more than 280 Arabs serving life sentences. More than 100 are serving multiple life sentences for high-casualty suicide bombings they were convicted of helping to plan and implement. The IPT has issued a summary, including the authors of many attacks that can be recalled as abominations:

Musab Hashlemon, a Hamas operative from Hebron, who received 17 life sentences for his role in facilitating a 2004 double suicide attack in Hebron. Sixteen civilians were murdered when suicide bombers dispatched by Hashlemon detonated themselves on two city buses.

In January 2004, Hashlemon – at the time a minor Hamas operative – was released in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hizballah. He will be deported to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Also on the list is Nasser Yataima, involved in planning the March 2002 suicide attack on a Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, in which 30 people were killed and 140 wounded.

Another is Abd al-Aziz Salaha, who participated in the October 2000 lynching of two IDF reservists who mistakenly drove into a mob of Palestinians in Ramallah. Salaha was photographed holding his blood-soaked hands out of the window.

Ahlam Tamimi, a female Hamas terrorist convicted of participating in the August 2001 bombing of a Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem in which 15 people were killed and 130 wounded. She has previously declared that she does not regret her role in the massacre.

Ibrahim Jundiya, who sent a suicide bomber to blow up a bus in Jerusalem in 2002, killing 11 people, will be deported to Hamas-ruled Gaza, as will Fadi Muhammad al-Jabaa, who plotted the 2003 suicide bombing of a Haifa bus, where 17 passengers were killed. Walid Aqel, who founded Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Military Brigades, in the 1990s, will be released from prison and sent to Turkey.

In her Jerusalem Post column condemning the deal, Caroline Glick adduces a relevant quotation:

The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmail situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best.

Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.

The quotation comes from Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1995 book, Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists.

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