The “Prisoner Exchange” Absurdity

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It is not often that I disagree with my good friend David Hornik, but – alas – this is one such time.  I have a very different take on the “prisoner exchange” deal just carried out between Israel and the Hamas terrorists, indeed one quite the opposite of what Hornik writes in his Frontpage Magazine piece “Freeing Gilad Shalit,” followed, by “Defending the Gilad Shalit Deal.”

Hornik essentially claims that the deal was justified because only small numbers of Palestinian murderers released by Israel in the past reverted to terrorism and murdered Jews.  He claims, much like the Israeli Prime Minister, that there was simply no viable alternative and leaving Shalit to his fate was just not an option.  Hornik does not believe the release of the terrorists creates an unreasonable security threat to Israel.  In part, this is because some of the worst terrorists will be deported to areas outside Israeli territorial control.  Steven M. Goldberg, writing in FPM, among others, disagrees.

So do I.

The issue is not simply the security risks from setting more than a thousand mass murderers back on the street.  I do not buy the “statistical trend” argument that since terrorist murders in Israel have been relatively low in recent years, the trend can just be extrapolated.  I think this smacks of “September 10, 2011” thinking.  In other words, looking at recent numbers as indicative of trends does not save us from the possibility of imminent quantum leaps of danger.  But even if Hornik is correct and the released murderers do not revert to terrorism, the “exchange” that released them was still insane.  It was a cynical slap in the face to the victims of those terrorists.  And it was a symbolic acquiescence by Israel to the terrorist point of view that has always insisted, much like the German Nazis, that murdering Jews is legitimate because Jewish life just “does not count,” because Jews are sub-human.  Those terrorists should have remained in prison (or been executed) and not traded for Shalit.

Khaled Mashal, chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in Damascus, Syria, also seems to disagree with Hornik. He proclaimed, “Those released will return to armed struggle.  It is a great national achievement.”

I think that the best definition of leadership is where a political leader is willing to resist populist pressure to do “popular” things whenever those “popular” things are harmful.  A real leader is someone capable of resisting the temptation to act as demagogue and play to the crowd.

In the massive release of mass murderers for Shalit, Bibi Netanyahu has revealed himself to be the very opposite of a leader.  The release of the Palestinian mass murderers is popular in Israel at the moment, according to public opinion surveys.  Netanyahu has a long track record of doing whatever the caprices of the public happen to favor at the moment.  So I suppose in some ways it was not surprising that he agreed to this atrocity.  A man who does not have the backbone to stare down and dismiss summer Woodstock-on-the-Yarkon “social justice” protesters (the cousins of the Wall Street Occupiers) cannot be expected to resist the passionate Israeli public’s desire to see Gilad Shalit released.

The release of the murderers is fleetingly popular in Israel this week.  Negotiating with Palestinians is also generally popular in Israel.  So are price controls on housing and raising the minimum wage.  So is (depending on wording of question) creating a Palestinian state.  Being a leader means refusing to create disasters just because the public this week happens to feel that it is a nice idea to create them.

There was a general and deeply-felt desire for Shalit’s release among all Israelis.  The media have kept the plight of his family in the headlines for five years.  Shalit was in captivity for longer than the U.S. soldiers who survived the Bataan death march in the Philippines or the British troops captured in Hong Kong and Singapore.

But it is now clear that the main effect of the organizations in Israel drumming up support for “Let’s Get Shalit Released,” and “We Demand Shalit’s Freedom,” was to increase the number of murderers released in the exchange, from a couple of hundred to over a thousand.  It was obvious all along that the protests “on behalf of Gilad” had no effect whatsoever on Hamas other than persuading it to hold out longer for greater levels of appeasement.  The protests simply weakened the resolve of the already weak Israeli political leadership to resist the extortion.

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  • Abraham romano

    I disagree with you.

    The deal is insane. That is true but why the the jewish people has survived for too many years? What makes the jewish people diferent all over the world? Why we as a people will survive for centuries?

    Just one thing: kol israel arevim se lase.

  • BS77

    This shows the world that Israel values life….their refined and compassionate culture cannot be dismissed so easily by the vultures in the media….yes, there is danger in this exchange…but they saved the life of one of their own.

    • Nina

      Ha, ha. this will show the world what an ethical people the Jews are. So what? Will the world stop demonizing the Jews? I doubt it. Better not count on what the world thinks, and do whatever is good for the Jews.

  • Black Zionist

    You are 100% right. These lopsided prisoner exchanges only incite more violence. While I'm not Jewish, I am a strong Zionist and I support the Jewish people. But I must say, as a friend and a supporter, this path of weakness and negotiations is the path to another holocaust.

    Is it about time that Israel does what any other reasonable government would do facing the dangers that they face. If Hamas attacks again, they need to simply wipe them out. End of story. Kill all the leaders and offer the fighters two options: surrender or be destroyed. Do the same process with Fatah. Fatah and Hamas are basically two sides of the same anti-semetic, genocidal coin. Go back into Gaza, Judea and Samaria and build. To h*ll with the "International community." Where was the "International community" during the holocaust. Nowhere. What were they doing. Almost nothing. So why do so many Israelis care what the "international community" thinks?

  • Flipside

    This kind of backbiting criticism of an Israeli Prime Minister brings back the ghost of Yigal Amir.

    • SHmuelHaLevi

      Not only Mr. Netanyahu should carefully internalize the concepts the vast majority of those sensitive to the real world conditions.
      Murderers found guilty in court or in any way resisting must be executed, not released. Traitors must also face the noose.
      Ayone else volunteering to harm our people must also find the short end of a trail.
      We are happy the youngster is back, we totally rejects the means used to obtain his release.

      • Dave

        just ignore this guy, he craves attention.

      • Flipside

        Do you feel the same way about traitors to the United States who support Israel? Should we execute Jonathan Pollard?

        • Rifleman

          It seems he would. To me, that depends on if they're spying for enemies or allies, like Israel or the UK, and whether they cooperate with the ensuing investigation when caught. Pollard made the decision to not cooperate and should at least spend the rest of his life in prison, unless exchanged.

          • Nina

            Exchanged for whom, you?

  • P. David Hornik

    Steve, just one correction–"Hornik essentially claims that the deal was justified because only small numbers of Palestinian murderers released by Israel in the past reverted to terrorism and murdered Jews." That, of course, is unfortunately untrue and I didn't say it. Otherwise your points are valid arguments and I'll respond to them.

  • Yidal Amir

    Flipside is so stupid that I am amazed that he knows how to wipe his own backside.

    • Rifleman

      Who says he does?

    • Flipside

      I know how. With the Bible you wipe left to right. With the Torah you wipe right to left.

      • stern

        Everything you say and do is written and on everything, you shall be judged. Perhaps not now, but when the time comes for your just rewards, I would hate to be you.

        • Flipside

          Odysseus turned out fine. And I’ve got a better bow.

      • ziontruth

        Let's see you do that with the Koran, tough boy. And post it on the Nets via webcam, complete with full name and address to back up your bravado.

        • Flipside

          They’re all just books. I don’t have a preference for the Koran either. But there aren’t any Muslim wackos on here, only Jewish and Christian Zionist wackos.

    • William

      If they just execute the terrorists as soon as they catch them then there wouldn't be anybody to exchange and the problem is over.

  • Alexander Gofen

    100% agree with you Prof. Plaut.

    But why, why are israelis such idiots that "The release of the Palestinian mass murderers is popular in Israel at the moment" and at any moment?!

    As to Shalit, if I were him, I would not enjoy my freedom bought at such a price…

  • crackerjack

    The whole, goverment supported, "Free Gilad" campainge was aimed at portraying Shalit as a innocent boy scout with glasses who was abducted while on an weekend outing with his friends after helping an old lady across the street.

    Eventually Israel and the world forgot that Shalit was a soilder in an army in a coutry at war. Hamas wisely let Israel spin its PR campaign to the end and then set a price for the superstar of the campaign.

    Israel is a victim of its own PR.

    • Dave

      Actually Israel is a victim of unrelenting international bullying which aims to delegitimise it's existence. This is working incredibly well and most people now feel that, like the holocaust and Jew hate in general, the Jews have 'brought it on themselves' . This is nothing new. No other people have ever been blamed for their own demise except the Jews.

      • Flipside

        Actually, the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas were too. So were the
        people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the people of Delos. Jewish suffering us not unique. It is boring.

        • Dave

          I'm talking about today not thousands of years ago. Judaism has survived thousands of years of some of the worst persecution and yet still exists today which is completely unique. That is why people like you hate them.

          • Flipside

            You give them too much credit. I don’t hate them. I just hate their industry of self-lamentation.

        • ziontruth

          You're boring.

          • Flipside

            Not as boring as your offense.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Israel is a victim of its own PR.

      And you are a useful idiot jihadist sympathizer.

  • montlasky

    You are the only one to mention capital punishment to date. At last. Well said!
    This will go a longway to reducing the prisoner exchange nonsense and rid the world of the dregs of humanity.
    Introduce capital punishment for terrorist crimes and watch the drop in numbers of the heinous crimes committed by these sub-human beings. Lives, time, prisoner swopping and Israels security would all improve drastically over night!

    • RobGinChicago

      And then cremate their remains and bury their ashes wrapped in pigskin.

  • C"H"Martel

    My book, "Satan's Trinity: Hitler, Stalin & Muhammad," will be available within the month and one may pre-order at For the first time in history "HSM" appear together on a book cover. The idea behind the book is to make headway against the ludicrous idea that Muhammad should be conjoined with any religious leader/founder. Once this comparison, driven by actual names, has been made then it must be attacked. Once the attack has been launched then the attackers will be forced to defend their attack. Since the attack is indefensible then the "religion" Muhammad (if he existed) founded will begin to be viewed as the scam it is. This book has been written under the principle of KISS. And nothing is simpler to understand than Hitler and Stalin…..and now, Muhammad. Thank you for your time…….C"H"Martel

    • stern

      Please go and shill for your book somewhere else. We really are tired of hearing about it here.

    • elihew

      Please, give it up Martel…

  • Rifleman

    I'm glad Trooper Shalit is home with his family, but I'd have a problem with a thousand terrorists being released in exchange for my life or freedom. I think I'd die content if a thousand terrorists were executed in exchange for my death or capture.

  • jacob

    In line with allowing for years South Israel to be bombed at will and instead of
    repaying in kind, chosing to pinpoint assassinations of terrorists on the way to
    bomb or in the act of by aircraft, which earned it the condemnation of the rotten
    UN and EU for "Disproportionate Reaction" , now is the exchange of 1,127
    terrorists with blood in their hands for one single soldier…?????.

    Wouldn't it had been more in line to have told HAMAS Israel would bomb
    every day a different target in GAZA, starting with the super shopping center
    it built until Shalit would be released ????

    Instead, this shameful deal is reached….

  • jacob

    This of Israel being so sensitive to world public opinion is truly stupid in the sense
    it doesn't dare to tell the world, as North Korea, China, etc, do, to do Israel a Jewish
    favor, that is, TO KISS ITS ASS…..


    • dartson

      The problem with your comparison is that North Korea is a dictatorship with a starving population and China has a huge territory with its own resources (+ alliance with a neighboring Russia), while Israel is a tiny patch of land with limited resources, surrounded by enemies from all sides. So getting into an open confrontation with the world and turning into another starving North Korea as a result of economic and security sanctions that will follow is not the best possible outcome for Israel. Having said that, I agree with the author that the Shalit deal was disastrous and there shoudl have been another way to get him released. I can only hope that the captured terrorists will be sentenced to death and executed from this point on.

  • guest

    I am happy he was freed. However won't this cause the enemy to grab a few more?
    Then ask for a few more thousand to be released?

    Never negotiate with terrorists, it just encourages them

    Just as easy Israel could have threatened to kill 100 each day till Gilad was released. They would understand that better.

  • Rev. Roy Trepanier

    The Palestinian Charter states that it's sole purpose for existing is to drive the Jews "into the sea", to utterly destroy Israel and the Jewish Nation. With that understanding, the argument that this trade will encourage more "captures" is neutered. The Palestinians are already, and will always, do all they can to capture more Israeli soldiers for barter.
    My prayer is that Israel will now do a little better PR work and let the entire WORLD know the value that they place on human life, IN GENERAL, (that "was created in the image and likeness of God"), and ISRAELI life, in particular. No other nation on earth has ever or would ever even consider such a deal. But then again they are not God's Chosen People. One of God's Chosen for 1,000 heathen, barbarian murderers sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I wonder why I never read, in any of these posts, about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and His part in all of this. Just the fact that there are still Jews on earth are proof of His presence and protection for "the apple of His eye"……..Bravo Mr. Netanyahu.
    Rev. Roy….<><

  • Brenner

    Hamas says that it will kidnap more Israelis. And there is even technology to do it, for instance the Guardian newspaper reports that "sleeping gas" is used on the island of Sardinia to put rich people to sleep so they can be robbed. Same technology could overwhelm an entire Israeli Outpost and carry them off to some dungeon in Gaza.
    Lots of Plaut's ideas above though are impractical, except for executing terrorists. That might be a deterrent.

  • xlent
  • Ivan

    The release of Shalit was perfect love for a son. One's own son is worth far more than a 1000 other sons. For anyone to claim that's prefer the life taken of Shalit for the execution of the 1000, have no idea what it is to love a son. You may as well be a merciless Arab who'd sacrifice his own sons for a no-go cause, no-value purpose. If the 1000 are caught in misdeeds, the Israelis ought to have a shoot to kill policy. The 1000 were released, they could use the mercy received to show mercy.

  • LindaRivera

    Britain's Cameron: "I hope this prisoner exchange will bring peace a step closer,"
    UN Secretary General: "Ban Ki-moon sees peace process boost from prisoner swap deal."

    For Cameron and Ban Ki-moon, "peace" is achieved by increasing violent jihad against Jews in the releasing of over a thousand inhuman Muslim monster killers with blood on their hands.
    It is the violent, murderous "peace" the immoral Quartet seek for Israel.

    In the past, hundreds of Jews have been barbarically murdered by Muslim terrorists that Israel released from jail. It is unbearable to contemplate the suffering of future victims. G-D help them.

  • LindaRivera

    In Judea and Samaria, Muslims are chanting: "The people want a new Shalit"

    There is a radical difference between Muslim and non-Muslim culture and beliefs. Non-Muslims believe all murders are evil and when murderers are released, people are angry and disgusted.

    But in the Palestinian Authority, savage murderers of infidel Jews are regarded as huge HEROES by PA Muslims. Sports teams, streets, schools, city squares are dedicated to, and named after barbaric killers of Jewish innocents. Muslims are filled with joy over the release of cruel killers-they are celebrating and setting off fireworks.

    Non-Muslims regard murder as EVIL and the wicked breaking of G-D's Law. It is revolting and inhuman that these Muslims regard murder as EXTREMELY GOOD. The "peace" they are planning is a Second Holocaust of Jews.

  • LindaRivera

    The photo of every single one of the released Barbaric Muslim Terrorists who were released should be shown throughout the world. Their photos should be posted at all airports, railway stations, bus stations, movie theaters, supermarkets, post offices, parks, etc. People have THE RIGHT TO KNOW who these monsters are so that they can be on their guard against these violent, hate-filled terrorist killers.


  • elihew

    I'm sorry but IMHO, this is one of the most absurd deals (decisions) ever made….

  • ashvin

    the exchange is worth it.
    lets analyze the scenario : how many Palestinian prisoners were or will be released ? approximately 1000 . How much is 1000 as compare to 1.2 billion Jews haters ? do you believe that 1000 prisoners would have made a difference ? do you believe that jews haters exist only palestine ? ask a philipino muslim or an indian muslim about jews and they will tell you how jews are the lowest of human species ! the funny fact about it is that these people may have never met a jew but thy still will hate jews. so releasing 1000 jews haters to let them join the 1.2 billion jews haters is not a big deal. and the israeli boy is free now !

  • alphakilosingh

    The deal is a sign of a weakening Israel. The left wingers are getting stronger in Israel, and Israel is fatigued by this never-ending war.

    • ziontruth

      "The left wingers are getting stronger in Israel,…"

      No, not stronger, only more desperate. They're in a race against time—demography favors the religious Jews in Israel, who are hawkish to a man.

  • sooke54

    I think the real scandal here is that these unrepentant murderers weren't executed a long time ago.

    This is a deal with the devil that will cost many Israelis their lives.

    • ziontruth

      The real scandal is that, both in 1949 and 1967, the Arab enemy population wasn't completely booted off the Land of Israel following Jewish victory.

      In 1949 many Arab population centers were left inside the Jewish State "on good behavior"—rewarded for not having participated in the hostilities of the War of 1947–9. (Got that? Rewarded for having had second thoughts about setting out on the war for killing the Jews and taking their spoils. People might as well tell the police they'd thought of murdering someone but decided not to, and then demand a reward for that.) Those Arabs are now, after more than 60 years, a seditious minority of 20% in the pre-1967 Jewish State that is growing more and more impudent by the day, with Nakba commemorations on Israel's Independence Day and such stuff.

      In 1967 the Jewish State made things even worse, by leaving the entire Arab settler-colonist population in the newly acquired Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Instead of emptying those lands of the enemy population as befits the Jews as the only true indigenous Palestinians, the Israeli government maintained a military occupations as if we were colonists here (which is exactly what the anti-Zionists now accuse us of. Call it divine retribution for not acting like God says we should in Numbers 33:50–53).

      Removing the enemy population from our land would have prevented many of the debacles that have befallen the Jewish State ever since. And it will have to be done someday if the Jewish State is to survive. No two nations can reside under the same political roof.