The Great Prisoner Swap

5 years in captivity and all I got was this uniform


Israel — After 5 years of captivity, Gilad Shalit is the first Israeli soldier returned alive from Palestinian custody in 26 years.

In what’s being been hailed by absolutely no one as the “The Herschel Walker of Prisoner Swaps”, Israel gave in to Hamas demands to release 1027 Palestinians convicted of violence against Jews and held in Israel’s jails and prisons.

1027 terrorists for one soldier. Wow. Around 450 were released 450 before Hamas would produce Shalit; the remaining 600 are to be set free in the upcoming weeks.

Shalit was 19 years old when captured during a deadly Gaza raid 5 years ago. Israel retaliated for a while with military strength, killing hundreds. After all, Shalit was the ONLY Israeli in Palestinian hands, whereas 6000 Palestinian “soldiers” are in Israeli custody.

Even though most of the Palestinian prisoners were terrorists who will obviously stop at nothing to destroy the Jewish state, Prime Minister Netenyahu finally relented. He just couldn’t leave an Israeli behind enemy lines any longer. Force only antagonized the issue and ultimately proved fruitless. So the negotiation stage brought out the 1000 people deal.

Who negotiated Israel’s side, Obama and Mike Ditka?

Shalit on an Egyptian Interview while captive. Although he looks gaunt, it appears he's signaling that all he needs is an HJ

Gilad’s family led a loud campaign for the recovery of their son over the years, and the movement captivated Israel. Even still, Israelis are morally conflicted on the prisoner swap. Obviously everyone is happy Shalit is home, but many don’t see the sense in releasing all this hatred back into the game.

Almost everyone is worried about the horrible precedent this deal will set. Hamas made out so well they might just increase the taking of such human bargaining chips.

Netenyahu is a notorious a hardliner against terrorism (he lost his brother in the terrorist Raid on Entebbe airport) so I have a feeling his reasoning derived from something more than loyalty and public outcry. I don’t have a hard time imagining that the cost of housing and feeding these prisoners was so great that they couldn’t afford to hold them any longer. Releasing them back to their “families” is much better PR than mass execution.

In the meantime at least Shalit gets to come home, sign up for Facebook, catch up on a couple Super Bowls and watch the LOST finale.

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  1. The moral dilemma and, particularly, the awful precedent spawned by trading 1,000 terrorists for one live soldier is obvious. So obvious that I was originally against this swap (though not as against it as I was against the 2008 swap of hundreds of Hezbollah terrorists for one deceased soldier). Then I had a conversation with my Rabbi about it and by the time it was over I realized that this was probably the right move for the following reasons.

    1. Bad Precedent issue: maybe this isn’t as much of an issue as we fear. At least that is what Netanyahu and the Knesset is thinking. Specifically, Isreal is so confident in it’s defense systems that it chalks up the kidnapping of this soldier to a fluke, and something that shouldn’t happen again. It’s a similar argument to the counter-argument to the “if we do x they’ll hate us” argument. No, they already hate us. Similarly, Israel believes that Hamas already was trying as hard as it could to kidnap Israeli soldiers and hasn’t succeeded in five years.

    So it’s two-fold:

    (a) Israel is confident that it can avoid kidnappings, and
    (b) Hamas and other Palestinian and Arab terrorist organizations already had a major desire to kidnap Israeli soldiers so doing (or not doing) this deal isn’t really creating much of an additional incentive.

    2. Showing the World that Israel Values Life: This “trade” shows the worlld that Israel has a high-degree of respect for its citizens and military personel’s lives, and makes good on it’s promise to leave no soldier behind. If the world wasn’t in large part anti-Israel (and, of course, anti-Semitic) and thus actually paid attention to the moral highground Israel has almost always taken (relax, I said “almost”), I’d think this would score some points for Israel in the Morality/Respect for Human Life departments. However, the world generally shows a disprortionately small amount of sympathy for Israel and, therefore, will probably not recognize (or even realize) Israel’s moral highground here. So, with that said, I don’t give too much weight to this “benefit” of making the deal.

    3. Mom and Dad: this perhaps should have been #1. The peace of mind and relief this trade gives to Shalit’s parents is obviously immeasurable.
    “But we can’t sacrifice the security of an entire nation for one soldier and his parents!” This is true, but it’s not just about this one Mom and Dad. It’s about (almost) every Israeli parent that will one day watch their young son or daughter leave home and enter the Israeli Defense Forces. These millions of Moms and Dads now know that Israel will not leave their kids behind. This is very positive when it comes to national pride and goodwill.

    4. The IDF: Just like this shows the Moms and Dads that Israel has their kids’ backs, it shows the soldiers — themselves — the level of commitment and respect for their lives Israel has for them. I’m pretty sure if I were a member of the IDF I’d be pleased about this.

    In conclusion, this was a beyond-difficult decision for Israel but, given the national attention and outcry, and the fact that Israel is obviously at least somewhat less worried about the “precedent” fear than I was (and in a way still am), I believe Israel made the right choice. That said, what happens if Hamas is able to kidnap another Israeli soldier (or citizen)? Was there some unwritten understanding that if they try this again the majority of Gaza gets bombed back to the stone ages?