Israeli leaders have a long history of making lopsided trades with their Arab enemies. These include:
1985: 1,150 prisoners for three captured Israelis
2000: 450 Arab prisoners for three Israeli bodies and a kidnapped Israeli;
2008: Five Arab prisoners (including the psychopath Samir al-Kuntar) and 199 Arab bodies for two Israeli bodies;
2011: 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit;
I strenuously opposed these unbalanced exchanges (e.g., the Schalit one), even as I acknowledged the honorable Israeli intent not to abandon soldiers.
But there is nothing redeeming whatsoever in the exchange that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Friday and the cabinet approved yesterday, releasing 104 murderers as a good-will gesture to encourage the Palestinian Authority to negotiate. Netanyahu justified this decision on the basis that “sometimes prime ministers are forced to make decisions that go against public opinion — when the issue is important for the country.”
This is a specious argument. Much more persuasively, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon argues that this gesture “is a prize for the Palestinians, just for their willingness to sit with us at the negotiating table. This defines future standards of far-reaching concessions by Israel, vis-à-vis ridiculous demands by the other side.” Danon rightly calls the release of dozens of terrorists who have the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands “lunacy.”
Lunacy, but also immorality. The exchange betrays the families of victims and it betrays Israel’s allies. It is a repugnant action.
To those who would excuse Netanyahu on the grounds that he feels pressure from the U.S. government, I reply: This is a lame excuse, for Israelis can and often have stood up to misguided American leaders; further, it appears to be inaccurate, for Netanyahu has recently suggested that, under the spell of the Ben-Gurion complex, he has himself become convinced of the need for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
One consolation is that views of the Israeli body politic: Whereas it approved the 2008 swap by a nearly 2–1 ratio, polling shows a 9-to-1 disapproval of the release of the 104 to the Palestinian Authority.