Latest update: May 14th, 2013
In the wake of another upsurge in activity and publicity surrounding Gilad Shalit, it bears remembering that there are compelling reasons for the Israeli government to think twice before agreeing to release hundreds of terrorists for his safe and overdue return.
Needless to say, his parents are doing what every parent would and should do, urging the return of their son whatever the cost. But the Israeli government must consider other factors just as important, chief among them being to ensure the welfare of all its citizens.
With this in mind, the following are ten reasons why Israel’s government should not submit to the extortion of terrorists:
1. Capitulating would compromise the Israeli government’s duty by endangering the welfare of its citizenry. It is axiomatic that one of the central purposes of any government is to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. Thus, it would be highly irresponsible for Israeli policy and strategic decision-making to hinge on and be dictated by the fate of a single individual. As noble as it sounds and feels, this is simply a recipe for disaster. Not only does it compromise the government’s raison d’etre, it places it in neglect of its duty by knowingly endangering the lives of all its citizens.
2. The most direct and palpable effect of releasing terrorists is their rate of recidivism. Unfortunately, recent history is replete with devastating statistics that demonstrate the alarming rate of the return to terrorism by released prisoners. Here are just a few: More than 1/3 of those released in the infamous 1985 “Jibril deal” renewed terror activity within the year; in the wake of the 2004 “Tennenbaum deal,” those freed had murdered at least 35 Israelis (as of April 2007); the Negohot terror attack (26/09/03), the Café Hillel bombing and the Tzrifin bombing (9/9/03) were all perpetrated either by or with the aid of a released terrorist; more generally, at least 30 terror attacks since 2000 have been committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations, altogether killing at least 177 Israeli civilians and soldiers.
3. Negotiating with Hamas complicates and politicizes an issue already fraught with difficulty. First and foremost, it pits security against politics. Whereas the Israeli security establishment has consistently opposed outrageously asymmetrical prisoner swaps and releasing prisoners “with blood on their hands,” competing domestic pressures make politicians more receptive to such exchanges. Recent events confirm that politicians recognize the political value of fruitful negotiations. In carefully chosen words, a number of Kadima MKs candidly admitted that Shalit’s release would “change the political situation.”
Moreover, as was recently demonstrated, the security establishment eventually retreats from its initial assessments and signs off on such exchanges. It thus appears that these institutions are also susceptible to political pressures, which displays a hazardous deviation from their duties.
4. Yielding to Hamas will transform them from an influential force in Israeli domestic politics to a certifiable power. The degree to which Hamas has already managed to hijack Israel’s domestic agenda is astounding; the expressions of Hamas officials have called the government into cabinet meetings; the hopes of the nation rise and fall with fabricated reports by Hamas of an impending exchange, leaving the Israeli government to blame if no ‘deal’ is reached. So far, only words have been exchanged. Put another way, Hamas has capital that has not yet been transferred into currency. By consummating a deal, the government substantiates Hamas’s status, granting it the prominence and prerogative to direct the course of the government’s decision-making as well as its agenda. The government would effectively turn Hamas into a de facto cabinet member with literal veto power on Israel’s strategic policy.
5. Submitting to Hamas’s demands would establish an ever more dangerous precedent. A review of the evolution of these exchanges reveals higher demands by the various factions and increasing disproportion in the exchanges – both inuring solely to the benefit of terror groups. As a case in point, the Regev/Goldwasser deal saw the release of convicted killer Samir Kuntar (among hundreds of others) for the bodies of the two Israeli soldiers. Hamas reportedly raised its demands from the release of 450 prisoners to 1500, and Hamas Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh flatly stated that Israel could no longer refuse to release prisoners with “blood on their hands.” With such cold-blooded calculus as a backdrop, concluding a deal for Shalit would undoubtedly set a new precedent.Raphael D. Harkham and Justus Reid Weiner
About the Author: Raphael D. Harkham, JD, is legal research assistant at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Justus Reid Weiner is an international human rights lawyer who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley law school. Weiner, who lectures at Hebrew University, is a senior research fellow at the Global Law Forum which is based at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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