Defending the Gilad Shalit Deal

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On Thursday I published an article on that concludes in support of the Gilad Shalit deal. Since then, not surprisingly, strong criticisms have been leveled against the deal, including an article in Friday’s Frontpage by Steven M. Goldberg. While I respect the critics’ arguments and share their distress over the mass release of terrorists, I still think the deal is the lesser evil.

The critics’ main argument concerns security. They say the terrorists to be freed will murder large numbers of Israelis, and that rescuing a single soldier can’t be morally justified if that is the result. The critics base this claim on statistics about terrorists released in previous lopsided Israeli prisoner deals who returned to terror and murdered Israelis.

There are two problems with this argument. One is that the statistics come mostly from periods in which there was rampant anti-Israeli terror in general; both terrorists released in deals and other terrorists were able to perpetrate numerous attacks.

For instance, in the 2004 prisoner deal that is most often cited in this context, Israel freed over 400 security prisoners in return for one live captive, Elhanan Tannenbaum, and the corpses of three soldiers. A 2008 article reported that “from the date of the deal on January 29, 2004, until April 17, 2007, those freed in the deal had murdered 35 Israelis.”

Those were still, however, years of high Israeli casualty tolls from terrorism in general—for instance, over 130 killed in 2004 and over 50 in 2005. In 2009, however, the total came to 6; in 2010, to 11; while the number so far in 2011 is 18. (Statistics are drawn from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Rocket fire from Gaza is a different matter, but it has mostly been nonlethal and a form of psychological warfare.)

Clearly, then, many of the hundreds of terrorists freed in Israel’s prisoner deals are still roaming free, but are much less able to perpetrate attacks—because Israel, mainly by reestablishing its security capabilities in the West Bank, has succeeded in drastically reducing terrorism overall. Those assuming that the terrorists to be freed in the present deal will be able to kill many more Israelis are not taking this into account.

The second problem with the critics’ main argument, the one based on security, is that under the terms of this deal a total of 110 less-dangerous terrorists will be released to the West Bank, and all of the more dangerous ones to Gaza or abroad. As Yoram Cohen, chief of Israel’s Shin Bet (internal security), remarked, “There are 20,000 Izzadin Kassam members in Gaza, and another 200 [terrorists to be sent there] are not going to make a huge difference.” As for the 110 lesser terrorists in the West Bank, it would be surprising if Israel can’t keep a lid on them; and as for those to be sent abroad, it will be hard, of course, for them to effectuate attacks from there.

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  • mike

    Is Israel Its Worst Enemy?

    1. Prime Minister who is a full-time agitator-propagandist who should never have achieved such a high position. He exploited Schalit's capture as much as his parents, shlepping them around to meet Sarko and other heads of state.
    2. Israeli press and TV that waged a hysterical campaign is even more guilty than Bibi with his inability to have a long-term goal. Israeli leaders are often prone to hysteria and often cause huge harm to the Jewish state.
    3. In order to avoid such incredible stupidities Israel shouldn't accumulate thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
    4. These exchanges totally undermine Israeli judicial system. This Tamimi shouldn't have been given 16 life sentences and released after 8 years. If her sentence would be 10 years then her release wouldn't be a sensation.
    5. Israel should regularly release prisoners after several years except those with blood on their hands. Now this expression is meaningless.

    • Shalom Freedman

      This is a rare case in which I find myself in total disagreement with David Hornik.
      Those who have done horrible injustice are being rewarded. Those who were relatives of the victims of the injustice are being dealt injustice again. The cruel and evil are being given a reward.
      Civilized society is based on the prohibition of and punishment for Murder. Murderers here are getting a reward.
      David Hornik does not here go into the argument pointing out how 'compassionate' we Israelis are, and how this explains our going so far to make this trade. But how compassionate are we really, if we neglect the families of past and possibly future victims? Aren't we rather guilty of horde thinking as we have given in to a kind of propaganda campaign in which one family succeeded in making one soldier's return from captivity more important than the security situation of the state as a whole?
      Aren't we really over- compassionate fools who have injured ourselves needlessly?

  • Cliff

    Some of us still believe that one man is as important as many. Leave no man behind. Terrorists will have endless days in hell, that will make their prison time seem like a vacation.

  • SHmuelHaLevi

    As a resident and active person I made it my obligation to find details.
    As of now and to the best of my knowlege the Shalit family has not even once recognized the pain and horror caused to the VICTIMS of PEACE by those bestial entities on their way home. For them it appears to have been an utterly selfish process fueled by a totally devoid of values "media".
    Lets be aware that the Israeli media has invested heavily on the "deal" and interviewed endlessly those controlling the murderous beasts being released.

    The "deal" is to my view acceptable to bring the boy home but is a monumental disaster otherwise.
    Not much different from "oslo" and "disengagement" and the various retreats and releases of islamic trash from prison that later turned to be the cause of untold pain.

    I doubt too many soldiers will endanger themselves to capture that ghastly element to see them go free and serve as electoral points for a very little respected "leadershi…p"

  • Sound Doc

    Sounds like a fair trade. One JEW is worth thousands of Muslims.

  • sedoanman

    I vaguely remember an obscure provision in the Geneva Convention that a combatant who is captured by his enemy and subsequently escapes or is recaptured can be executed. And that applies to LEGITIMATE combatants. If this exchange doesn't have a similar provision, then the Israelis are negligent at best.

  • sedoanman

    Correction: the above should read: "… a combatant who is captured by his enemy and subsequently escapes or is released and later recaptured …"

  • Old soldier

    This is not only a major defeat for Israel (no backbone will encourage all it's enemies) but it encourages enemiers of all civilized . "Light unto the nations"?? No. it's a GREEN LIGHT to terrorists worldwide.

  • R Qiddis

    It's obvious that nearly all commentators have a common denominator,the very precious Jewish ego vs the animalistic nature of any human being who would resist the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine .I'm sure I can't persuade any of these with an incompatible stand off .Well, just think about this 1,Schalit was not playing marbles when he was arrested ,he was an armed soldier on duty,so arresting him was a 100% military operation 2)You have to get out of your bats dark cave -hating whoever and whatever non-Jewish- 3)Have you considered thoughtfully your slogans of cutting electricity, water and food from Gaza strip ?,you know things around "Israel" are changing dramatically ,do you accept to be threatened with the same means someday?4)I think that the stiff necked right in Israel instead has lost very valuable chances of making peace with unprecedented concessions from the weak helpless PA in the last three years, but again it's another Shylock story ,a nonfiction this time.

  • Jacques

    David, for once, I am in disagreement with you. The worst effect of this ill-advised trade will be, as with police risking their lives arresting criminals only to see them freed by liberal judges, to demoralize the brave soldiers and operative who risked life and limbs putting those terrorists behind bars. Clearly, it will also embolden the terrorists, who see this as a victory. You should never negotiate with tyranny.

  • aspacia

    I too disagree with Hornik. Israel needs to amend its capital punishment law to include terrorists with blood on the their hands. This release is a moral outrage against the victims' who families have suffered.

    • winston

      and what of the loved one's of innocent Palestinians killed when Israel exacts some brutal collective punishment it deems 'appropriate' against an entire population>?
      I mean, what would we say of the Pali's if they committed such atrocities against innocent Israelis? If they, in three weeks of slaughter and destruction, killed 1,387 people including 252 children, Used phosphorus weapons against a civilians population, destroyed thousands of structures; including homes, factories, schools, mosques, and even hospitals? See report by B'Tselem on Operation Cast Lead.
      I know that no conflict lasts long in which only one side of at fault. But let's keep things real. There has been tremendous suffering on both sides/ It's ironic because Jews and Palestinians are so closely related.. but that's religion for you. It is great at one thing; dividing people from what are in fact, their own cousins.

      • aspacia

        These fakes elected a terrorist organization sworn to destroy Israel. Hamas starts violence, hides in schools, ambulances, hospitals, homes, mosques and in areas crowded with civilians. Some of these terrorist sympathizing civilians are accidentally killed when Israel retaliates, and the fakes use silly liberals like you to promote their cause of annihilating Israel and all Jews in the area.

        The Hamas have launched thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas without one word of protest from the likes of you and the UN. Years and numerous rockets later, when Israel responds, and the fakes die, both you and they cry.

        I have zero sympathy for any bully who begins a fight, and cries when her/his nose is bloodied. I have zero sympathy regarding the civilians who elected Hitler and suffered after causing us to suffer. I have zero sympathy for Japanese civilians who supported their government after the Nanking Massacre and Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March. I have zero sympathy for Arab/Muslims who perish at the hands of Israel–THEY HAVE IT COMING.

        My mother survived WWII while living in Plymouth England, the second most bombed city in England. My father survived WWII while serving on a tin can that was blown to bits off the coast of Italy. Three-fourths of the crew died. The destroyer's name was the Roan if you want to check my claim.

        When it comes down to facts, you are too blind to realize that you are an infidel, and these fanatics want you dead too. Remember how they cheered and passed out candy on 9/11.

        You are a fool. So what if they are related, the bloodies wars have been civil wars, brother against brother.

  • Black Zionist

    I disagree with Hornik.

    When terrorists are released, they are lauded as heroes throughout the Arab world. And this only encourages more terrorist attacks. Israel needs to take the gloves off and start taking apart terrorist organizations.

    I have no problem with Israel releasing 1,000 Palestinian terrorists, as long as they are released in a casket.

    • aspacia

      Each should have a tracking device implanted. After their release, assassinate them.

  • Raymond in DC

    The appallingly asymmetric Shalit trade* has had the unintended (but predictable) consequence that others now think they can engage in such trades with Israel. Egypt is currently holding without cause two Israelis – one a Jewish tourist (Ilan Grapel), one a Bedouin. But Egypt is willing to "trade" them for 81 Egyptians (including several convicted on terror charges) currently being held in Israel. And since Grapel is also a US citizen, Egypt is extracting a few concessions from the US as a bonus. If the US utilized its so-called "smart power", it should have been able to get them freed without such ransom payments.

  • Raymond in DC

    Agree. "Justice justice shall you pursue" it says in Deuteronomy. Where is the justice for the families of the thousands killed and maimed when the perpetrators are welcomed home as heroes and role models? This deal has reopened painful wounds for them. One bereaved family, betrayed by promises that the killers would never see the light of day, have announced they are leaving Israel for good.