One prisoner swap too many
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Analysis

One prisoner swap too many

Is a soldier's blood redder than that of the Israelis murdered by the terrorists released in the Shalit deal?

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

The family of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld mourns near his body during his funeral at Kochav Hashahar in West Bank, July 01, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
The family of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld mourns near his body during his funeral at Kochav Hashahar in West Bank, July 01, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Since Israel cut a deal with Hamas in October 2011 to free the captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, six Israelis have been murdered in attacks carried out or planned by prisoners who were released in that agreement. And unfortunately, victim number six, Malachy Rosenfeld, slain three weeks ago, will probably not be the last.

Almost weekly, Israeli and Palestinian security forces arrest Hamas supporters in the West Bank who are trying to carry out attacks against Israeli targets. The common denominator for nearly all of these attacks is a “guiding hand” that comes out of the so-called “West Bank bureau” of Hamas. This is a group of released Shalit Deal prisoners originally from the West Bank who were deported to the Gaza Strip and who have resumed their 24/7 attempts to carry out attacks in the West Bank.

Another group involved in the same activity consists of a number of Hamas members who were deported to Turkey. From there, and under the command of Saleh al-Arouri (although he denies it), they are working to infiltrate the West Bank via Jordan and kill Israelis and destabilize the Palestinian Authority.

The lesson is clear. First, deportation as part of a deal to release fighters, has not been proven effective in preventing terrorism. On the contrary. It has actually undermined the ability of the General Security Service and the IDF to reach the terrorists.

Second, and this is the crux of the matter, these transactions sanctify the blood of soldiers like Gilad Shalit, while reducing the value of other lives to zero. No matter how many tragic reminders Israel gets after negotiating the release of IDF soldiers; no matter how high the stack of Israeli bodies gets as a result of such transactions, there’s still a deeply embedded Israeli reflex that sends decision-makers back each time to the idea of a wholesale release of terrorists for a soldier or two.

The Shalit Deal set a new record by far for Israel’s willingness to make concessions and reach an agreement, one that was signed by none other than Benjamin Netanyahu. Of all people, it was actually Bibi — a man who can write books about the war on terror, who plays aggressive hardball when it comes to Iran — who signed one of the worst deals for Israel. One-thousand twenty-seven male and female prisoners were released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. The question may sound like a worn out cliche, but it must be asked: was Gilad Shalit’s blood redder than the blood of the six people subsequently murdered as the result of the deal for his release? Is it redder than the blood of the additional victims who will inevitably and tragically be murdered? Shouldn’t Netanyahu have taken a far tougher stance with Hamas in order to get them to climb down from their demand for a thousand prisoners?

Perhaps even more ridiculous is the fact that the Israeli public accepted the Shalit deal with near total understanding. This, in contrast with its hostile reaction to the release in stages of 104 longtime prisoners that was scheduled as part of resuming negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. These are older prisoners, mostly Fatah supporters. They were arrested before the Oslo Accords in the mid-nineties. They pose no security risk. But it was apparently worth torpedoing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority just to hold on to them, while the Shalit deal freed a huge number of prisoners in the full knowledge that some would go back to terror attacks.

And you can be certain that there are released prisoners who are now planning to kidnap Israelis in order to make more Shalit-type deals. And when the next kidnapping comes — and it will come — we will again hear demands for the release of terrorists. And this time the numbers will be even higher than in the Shalit deal. And those who are released the next time will once again try to kidnap in order to release more prisoners.

And until an Israeli leader comes along who finally puts a stop to these these dangerous, delusional transactions, there will be only more kidnapping attempts.

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