Well, spring is certainly in the air today as the Middle East’s ubiquitous moderate Muslim groups mark Israel’s profoundly self-defeating exchange: a single Israeli soldier traded for the release of over a thousand prisoners — nearly half of them convicted terrorists, as Daniel Pipes notes.
I am loath to disagree with the estimable David French (or, for that matter, with Jonathan Tobin, who David cites and whose observations are always worth considering), but count me with Daniel. I respectfully suggest that there is an enormous difference between the “never leave anyone behind” ethos and paying ransom to terrorists. We don’t leave our soldiers behind, either, but it’s also U.S. policy (or at least it used to be) not to negotiate with terrorist organizations – because rewarding their extortion creates perverse incentives that dramatically increase the danger to soldiers and civilians.
Gilad Shalit was never left behind or treated as if he were expendable — Israel has never forgotten him and has pushed for his return since his capture. But, while I concede Prime Minister Netanyahu the best of intentions, he has precisely treated Israelis as if they were expendable. 447 terrorists are going back to the jihad. They now have an even more powerful incentive to kill more Israelis and abduct more soldiers: a life sentence for terrorism, they’ve learned yet again, is not really a life sentence, and a single kidnapped soldier is a sure chit to be played for hundreds of soldiers. As Caroline Glick points out in this poignant post, many more than one Israeli will be killed because of what happened today — we just don’t know their names yet. And while we can appreciate the rejoicing of Sgt. Shalit’s parents, many other anguished Israelis are now coming to grips with the fact that, though their loved ones are never coming home, the killers have been released to kill again.
Moreover, if Caroline is correct (as she nearly always is), the lop-sided swap is only one component of this foolish deal. It is reported that Netanyahu also agreed to give the leadership of Hamas safe passage from Syria to their soon-to-be new perch in [surprise!] Egypt. For years, Hamas has had sanctuary from the execrable Assad regime (since they are both supported by Iran). It has, however, become dicey in Syria for Hamas leaders because Assad’s main opposition is … the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch). It makes much more sense, then, for Hamas to set up shop in Egypt – the headquarters of the Brotherhood, which is already starting to run the place.
Obviously, Netanyahu is under great pressure from the Obama administration and Europe, which insist on pretending that the Brotherhood is a moderate, “largely secular” political party and on laying the groundwork for Hamas to be branded that way, too. But it is hard to see how it is in Israel’s interest to facilitate the safe transfer of the leadership of a group pledged to its destruction in order that this group can enjoy safe haven from its parent organization – which is similarly pledged to Israel’s destruction.
The indispensable MEMRI is watching reaction to the Shalit exchange. Here’s a delightful little ditty from a website affiliated with Fatah. (You may recall Fatah as the heirs to Yassir Arafat who control Judea and Samaria — they’re considered the Palestinian “moderates” by comparison to Hamas):
This soldier was a waif born in a shelter as a result of the deterioration and disintegration of Israeli society. A Zionist soldier, he became seeped with Zionism to the bone… This monster joined the army of Zionist gangs, to carry on the legacy of his fathers, the apes and pigs of the Haganah, Irgun, Stern, and Palmach organizations, in order to carry out the orders of his fascist masters. That was the Zionist soldier Gilad Shalit, 19 years-old when he was captured by the Palestinian resistance.
This incompetent soldier became the most prized soldier in all the armies of the world. He entered the annals of history through the widest gate, and his name went down in the Guinness Book of World Records…. The world was in turmoil as the Arab leaders, the West, and the monstrous mini-state [Israel] waged a five-year publicity and marketing campaign throughout the world in an attempt to liberate the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit…. He was a focus of interest for journalists and political and military analysts in all the electronic and printed media, while the conscience of those flaccid leaders remained unmoved by the [plight of] our courageous heroes and glorious prisoners hidden away in the dungeons of the enemy’s strongholds.
Alrighty then. Next up, from moderate Jordan, we have those those moderate rascals from the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Hamas movement must secure a new prisoner in order to free additional [Palestinian] prisoners from the jails of the occupation, because those who will not be released as part of the Shalit deal now feel and understand that their salvation depends on [the capture of] a new prisoner. This great national duty must be fulfilled, if not by Hamas then by any other organization….
The latest exchange deal was great and magnificent … a victory for the Hamas movement and the entire Palestinian people. It confirms that continuing the resistance is the [right] path and option [to take] until the Palestinian rights are restored in full, without exception…. The freed prisoners will be birds of freedom and torches to light the fire of resistance, and they are the incontrovertible proof that the Palestinian right[s] will only be restored through resistance….
Fabulous. As you’d expect, Hamas is obligingly weighing in:
As we say goodbye to Shalit, we hope to welcome a new guest, to capture a new soldier, to hurt the enemy in a way that will humiliate and distress him, to pull his soldiers from their tanks and even shoot down their planes, to destroy their vehicles and to lead them, handcuffed, to our jails. This, in order to … liberate those whom the enemy is [still] holding in his prisons and whom he refuses to free because they have shed his blood, humiliated him, killed the best of his soldiers, rubbed the noses of his crack units in the dirt, and forced his leaders to surrender and accept their terms. Goodbye, Shalit, and hello to the new prisoner who will replace you and by means of whom we will humiliate your army and your leadership. We will not surrender, give up or disdain [our duty] until we get back the last of our prisoners and destroy the last of the detention facilities that the enemy has constructed on our own soil…
It’s probably best to close, as Caroline did, with the cautionary words of a wise Israeli:
Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.
Those words were written by Benjamin Netanyahu. It was 1995, and I fear he was as prophetic then as he is foolish now.