The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed its opposition to the possible decision of the Israeli government to free nearly 1,000 jailed Palestinians, including murderers, attempted murderers, accessories to murder and others involved in terrorism against Israel in return for the freeing of kidnapped Israeli serviceman Corporal Gilad Schalit as a tragic mistake. Corporal Schalit was kidnapped by Hamas infiltrators in 2006 and has been held by the Islamist terrorist organization in Gaza since that date. Hamass Charter calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7).
Among those likely to be freed, for example, will be the woman who drove the 2001 Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria bomber, who murdered 15 Israelis and maimed dozens more. Many others will be terrorists who directly committed murders. Also likely to be released with be Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah figure who commanded the Tanzim terror squads during the early years of the Palestinian terror wave beginning in September 2000 and who was arrested by Israeli forces in 2002 and imprisoned after being found guilty on five counts of murder.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We oppose this mass release of jailed terrorists for three primary reasons: it will result in more murdered and maimed Israelis, because many freed terrorists have returned to terror and claimed lives in the past. It will encourage more kidnappings of Israelis by Hamas and other terror groups as a means to extract their terrorists from Israeli jails, as they have just again succeeded in doing. And it will also give a boost to the most murderous elements in Palestinian society, especially Hamas, at once rewarding terrorists and encouraging them to continue shedding blood.
This release of 1,000 terrorists in return for one kidnapped Israeli also shows the slippery slope down which Israel is falling. At one time, Israel would release terrorists, but not those with blood on their hands a misleading euphemism for terrorists who failed to kill or who did not directly commit terrorist murders themselves and only in return for live Israelis.
By July 2008, however, Israel had agreed to release to Hizballah a gruesome murderer, Samir Kuntar, and four others prisoners in return for the corpses of two kidnapped Israelis. In August 2008, it also freed a further 198 jailed terrorists, including two convicted murderers and 149 others guilty of attempted murder, as a confidence-building measure. In October this year, in return for a mere video of Gilad Schalit, Israel freed 20 Palestinian prisoners. Now it has agreed to release a staggering 980 prisoners to Hamas to secure Schalits return.
Clearly, Israel is giving more and receiving less and that is not the worst of it. The fact is that freed terrorists frequently return to terror and end up murdering more Israelis. The evidence for this is clear: Col. Meir Indor, Director of Almagor Terrorist Victims Association (ATVA), disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the previous five years had been killed by terrorists freed on the basis that they were without blood on their hands. An earlier ATVA report showed that 123 Israelis had been murdered by terrorists freed during 1993-99.
Evidently, Israelis were fooling themselves if they thought that freeing attempted murderers and accessories to murder carried few risks. Freed terrorists, whether they succeeded to kill or not, often try to kill again. This aspect of the problem is routinely ignored by in discussion of prisoner releases.
Freeing terrorists in exchanges of this type provide a major incentive for more kidnappings of Israelis. As Hamas chief Khaled Mesahaal said only days ago, The resistance is capable of capturing [another] Schalit and [another] Schalit and [another] Schalit, until not a single prisoner will remain in the enemys jails.
Israelis willingness to release live terrorists in return for even dead soldiers provided the terrorists all the incentive they required. Moreover, where Israel frees terrorists for corpses, it endangers the lives of those kidnapped, because it demonstrates that their deaths pose no obstacle to an exchange. This puts the lives of future kidnap victims in jeopardy.
Have we learned nothing from bitter experience? Freeing even hundreds of terrorists has never improved Israels standing among Arabs, moderated their demands or mollified their hatreds. As Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shalom Harari of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya noted after this very prisoner release: On the morning after we heard Fatah blaming Israel. Whatever happens, they will blame Israel and fault everyone except for themselves.
The appeals to put ourselves in the shoes of the families of the kidnapped are deeply moving and understandable, but remain false and can also be emotionally manipulative. In any event, they cannot be decisive. Would we allow relatives of people held up by bank robbers to decide whether or not the police accede to the demands of their captors?
The duty of the state is to protect its citizens. It follows that the most important consideration must be preventing the loss of further lives to terror.
We deeply sympathize with Israeli families when their sons are kidnapped by bloodthirsty terrorists. We would support virtually any efforts to bring them home safely. But when the record plainly shows that releasing terrorists brings only more terror and tragedy, the painfully necessary course of action is clear no more rewarding kidnappings through terrorist releases.