“The people want a new Gilad!” So went the menacing cry in Gaza this week, as tens of thousands of Palestinians celebrated the swap deal that will return Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit home in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners and terrorists.
If for many Israelis the Shalit deal inspired sober reflection about the painful price the country will pay for the life of just one Israeli, for Palestinians it proved yet another occasion to rejoice at the prospect of killing more Jews, seizing more soldiers, and inflicting further harm on the Jewish State. But the morbid glee that has greeted the return of unrepentant murderers on the Palestinian side is only one of the dark consequences of the prisoner swap. A closer look at those released in the deal – a murder’s row that includes many who have vowed to return to terrorism – provides a full measure of Israel’s sacrifice.
Among them are men like Abdel Aziz Salha. In 2000, Salha helped kill two Israeli soldiers who had made a wrong turn in the West Bank village of Ramallah. In a gruesome scene following their murder, Salha waived his bloodstained hands out the window of the police station where the soldiers had been killed, as triumphant crowds cheered the bloody deed. The sickening image became iconic of the savagery of the first intifada.
Also freed was Wafa al-Bass. In 2005, al-Bass was caught while attempting to carry out a suicide bombing in a crowded Israeli hospital. Al-Bass was being treated at the hospital, free of charge, for burns that she had suffered in a cooking accident at home, though that did not deter her from going ahead with the attack. When her attempt to explode her suicide belt failed, al-Bass ended up in prison. Today, al-Bass remains committed to the terrorist cause. Upon her arrival in Gaza this week, she said that Palestinians should “take another Shalit” every year until all Palestinian prisoners are freed from Israeli jails.
Still another prisoner freed this week is Awana Jawad Mona. Posing as an American love interest, Mona seduced sixteen-year-old Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum via an online chat room and then drove him to Ramallah, where he was gunned down execution style by Palestinian terrorists. After her arrest, Mona revealed that she had been inspired to kill Israelis after witnessing the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in 2000, a scene that “excited” her. Of her role in luring Rahum to his death, Mona boasted, “I am proud of what I have done.” Mona’s release this week is a reminder that, unlike Shalit, some young Israelis never will return home.
Ahlam Tamimi is another freed prisoner who remains proud to have contributed to the killing of Israelis. In prison for planning the 2001 attack on Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israelis were killed and 107 wounded, Tamimi personally drove the suicide bomber to the restaurant. She has since said that she would do it again if given the chance. The parents of Malka Roth, one of the victims of the Sbarro bombing, tried to prevent Tamimi from being released. Instead they must watch as the woman who conspired to kill their daughter, and who now vows to kill others, walks free.
Tamimi is joined by Yehya Sinwar, a co-founder of an early security wing of Hamas, who marked his release this week by pledging “to work hard to free all prisoners, especially those who serve high sentences, whatever the price was.” Sinwar is the founder of Hamas’s early security service, which was notorious for hunting down and killing Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Sinwar’s brother, Mohammed Sinwar, is believed to have helped plan the 2006 raid in which Shalit was captured.
Countless other faces of terror will walk free. Al-Hadi Ghanim killed 16 people in 1989 when he grabbed the steering wheel of a Jerusalem-bound bus and drove it into a ravine. In 1992, Gaza resident Fuad Abu al-Amrin stabbed to death 15-year-old Helena Rapp with a kitchen knife as she walked to school. Both will be released. The list goes on.
Israel’s history is replete with agonizing agreements, but this week’s disproportionate exchange is particularly perilous. Given the express promises of the released prisoners to return to anti-Israel violence, the worry that Israel will be inviting more terrorism by sanctioning their release is all too credible. That some of those released will be exiled abroad does little to mitigate this threat, especially since Hamas has already reneged on this part of the agreement.
The safe return of an Israeli soldier is of course wonderful news, for Shalit and his family, but also for a country committed by law and custom to secure the freedom of its citizens and never to leave a soldier behind. If Israelis have not welcomed this week’s exchange with unmixed joy, it is because they know that rewarding Shalit’s captors by releasing their terrorist allies from prison is a dangerous strategy, one that guarantees he will not be the last Israeli captured.
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