Israel-Hamas Prisoner Swap

It's getting closer.

Many will remember the prisoner swap ten years ago, when Israel agreed to free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including many who had committed terrorist murders, in exchange for exactly one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Many of those 1,027 returned to their murdering ways, killing Israelis who would not have been killed had the swap never taken place. Some Israelis vowed that such a lopsided deal must never again be entered into, but according to news reports, that’s exactly what is about to happen.

A report on the soon-to-be-announced prisoner swap is here: “Israel, Hamas reach ‘understandings’ on prisoner swap – report,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, October 23, 2021:

Important and positive developments have unexpectedly occurred in secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas towards reaching a prisoner exchange agreement, Egyptian sources revealed on Friday.

The sources told the Rai al-Youm online newspaper that the Egyptians have “accomplished many points related to the prisoner swap deal, which may be announced within a few weeks.”

According to the sources, the Egyptians received “official and clear guarantees from Hamas and Israel that comply with the broad outlines of the deal.”

“There are understandings on many points, and Cairo has completed more than 70% of the deal, and the rest may be related to the details of time, place, guarantees and other logistical matters,” the sources said.

Hassan Yousef, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, was quoted as saying that there are “significant surprises” that will be part of the prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.

The enthusiasm of Hamas is palpable. But what are the “significant surprises” that he refers to? I would hazard a guess that one of those “surprises” will be the freeing of Marwan Barghouti, the most famous of the terrorists now imprisoned. Barghouti is serving five life terms for five murders. Now Israel may have decided to let him go. A big mistake.

The second “significant surprise” is, I suspect, the freeing of the six prisoners who in September escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison; they were all recaptured within a week but during that week, they were lionized by Palestinian society for their breakout and still are; even the rusty spoon they used to dig their escape tunnel has become a symbol of the “resistance.” It would be quite an achievement for Hamas to obtain their release, as well as that of Barghouti, and quite a slap in the face of Mahmoud Abbas, whose failure to obtain the release of a single prisoner (Israel’s previous release of 1,027 prisoners was also made with Hamas), is testament to his impotence.

The discussions that are taking place are very secretive and in the hands of the [Hamas military wing Izzaddin] Al-Qassam Brigades, and important developments have taken place,” Yousef told Rai al-Youm.

The deal, he added, “will fulfill the aspirations of our prisoners in Israeli prisons.”

Aside from the freeing of Marwan Barghouti and the six Gilboa Prison escapees, I would assume that Hamas would not be so enthusiastic about the deal unless they have been guaranteed that Israel is willing to free roughly the same number of prisoners as were released in the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit, that is, about a thousand.

Last week, Hamas said that the issue of the prisoners remains at the top of its priorities and it will not rest until they are all released from Israeli prisons.

“Liberating our detainees from the occupation’s prisons is a religious, national, and humanitarian duty,” Hamas said in a statement on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange agreement….

Hamas is holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also holding two Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who entered the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015.

This is likely to be as lopsided and dangerous a deal as the one Israel agreed to in order to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit. After that deal was made, Hamas enjoyed a great increase in popularity among the Palestinians, a morale booster that led to more attacks by the terror group. By 2015, at least ten Israelis had been murdered, and more wounded, by terrorists who had been freed in the Shalit prisoner swap. In the six years since then, while totals have not been released, assuming that the same rate of terrorist murders by those freed in the 2011 swap has continued since 2015, then a dozen more Israelis are likely to have been killed, giving a total of 22 Israelis killed by prisoners whom Israel freed in order to obtain the release of one soldier. Was it worth it?

In the current deal, Israel will not be getting back a live soldier, but only two corpses, and two Israeli citizens, one of them an Israeli Arab, who are both mentally defective and wandered into Gaza at different times. Is It certain that in their permanent mental condition, they would even recognize, much less appreciate, the state of being free from their Palestinian captors? Sentimentalists would say, as they did during the run-up to the Gilad Shalit swap in 2011, that in order to get back even one Israeli being held prisoner, no number of released Palestinian prisoners is too high. But is that true? Among the 1,027 prisoners traded for Gilad Shalit, some returned to terror attacks and went on to murder nearly two dozen Israelis. Weren’t those murders predictable? What if they had killed 50 Israelis? One hundred? Is there a number that we can all agree on that would be too high a price to pay for the release of Gilad Shalit? How many murders will be committed by the prisoners who are soon to be released by Israel, in order to get back not a live soldier but two corpses, and two mental defectives?

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