Feature

Israel: It’s time to stop handing over prisoners

There was a time when Israel &ldquo;adhered to the principle that we don&rsquo;t release prisoners with blood on their hands,&rdquo; said Yoel Marcus in <em>Ha&rsquo;aretz.</em>

Yoel MarcusHa’aretz

There was a time when Israel “adhered to the principle that we don’t release prisoners with blood on their hands,” said Yoel Marcus. But that came to a halt in 1985, when 1,150 Palestinians, many of them killers, were exchanged for just three Israeli soldiers taken captive in Lebanon. All of a sudden, concern for the soldiers’ relatives took precedence over wider considerations. Yitzhak Rabin, defense minister at the time, said he hadn’t been able “to bear the looks he got from the family members.”

And so it now continues. Generations of politicians had vowed that Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese terrorist who wiped out a Jewish family in 1978, would “never see the light of day.” Yet he was released last year in exchange for the bodies of two Israelis. Now there’s the same hand-wringing over Gilad Shalit, the corporal snatched in a Hamas cross-border raid in 2006. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was desperate to get Shalit released to help secure his legacy before he stepped down, but even he balked at Hamas’ demands: It wanted 450 of its heavyweights back in return.

Despite the great public sympathy for Shalit’s family, we must keep in mind the long-term risks of giving in to terrorism. Yes, we should try to bring hostages back—but not by “submitting to the dictates of a cruel enemy.”

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