Writing these lines is much easier than telling Aviva and Noam Shalit the truth. But the truth is that releasing hundreds of Palestinian murderers in exchange for Gilad is bad for Israel. It is also bad for a peace-seeking Palestine. That is the honest truth.
That was true three and a half years ago when Gilad was abducted and it is correct today as Hamas demands have not materially changed. It is wrong to give in to terror – it will only invite more of the same. That plain premise was right in 1985 when then-Ambassador Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a courageously candid letter to Foreign Minister Yitzchak Shamir (his boss) protesting the dreadful Jibril deal. In that case, 1,150 terrorists were released in exchange for three soldiers who were sent to safeguard their country – the premise still holds true.
It has been proven time and again that the release of terrorists leads to more terror. Nobody knows that better than the prime minister of Israel. The released terrorists in 1985 were the foundation for the first Intifada in 1987. Subsequent to the 1993 Oslo Accords - 6,912 Palestinian terrorists were released as part of confidence-building measures. A total of 854 of them were later arrested for acts of terrorism. Many more took part in the second Intifada that began in 2000.
In fact, since the year 2000, 180 Israelis have been killed and hundreds injured by terrorists who were released from Israeli jails. Another mass release of terrorists may serve as a platform for the third and perhaps even more violent Palestinian Intifada.
Prime Minister Netanyahu knows much more than most of the very painful consequence of terror. He has done much more than most to confront it and has been warning the world of its ramifications as far back as the 1970s. Netanyahu knows that the Shalit swap is wrong.
Releasing terrorists is wrong - releasing them prior to undergoing a deradicalization program and before they have completely and candidly denounced terror is reckless. It is dangerous not only for Israel, it also jeopardizes peace-seeking Palestinians and anyone else interested in Middle East peace.
The Singapore model
In contrast to common conception, Israel is not alone in confronting terrorism and dealing with radical inmates that eventually return to society. An important international workshop was held last week by The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at Kings College of London. The workshop brought together 12 authors, including one from the Institute of Counter Terrorism in Herzelyia, who studied the experience of a number of terror riddled countries and presented their findings. Fifteen countries were examined including France, the US, the UK, Israel, Spain, Singapore, the Netherlands, Yemen, Indonesia, Pakistan the Philippines and even Saudi Arabia.
It turns out that the deradicalization of terrorists may be feasible. Singapore for example has been able to implement a deradicalization program that has reportedly rehabilitated dozens of Jemaah Islamyia members. Of the 60 Jemaah Islamyia inmates participated in the deradicalization program, 40 were seen fit for release. None have yet to return to terror.
One of the pillars of the program is to hold conversations and debates between moderate clergy, Islamic scholars and inmates in an effort to persuade prisoners that the religious justification for their actions is wrong and based upon a corrupted understanding of Islam.
For such a program to work with Palestinian prisoners that were subjected to years of incitement and hate against Israel, it would need to be applied in a neutral setting. Putting Palestinian security inmates in a Singapore-style program outside the Middle East presents countless logistic and operational challenges that would be difficult to overcome. The alternative of unconditional release however, is unacceptable.
As Finance Minister, Netanyahu embraced economic reforms that succeeded in Singapore and elsewhere and effectively implemented them at home. The reforms enhanced market competition and enabled economic growth. Today - if he wants to enhance the hope of a durable peace in the future - Netanyahu should adopt Singapore’s deradicalization model and insist on complete deradicalization of Palestinian inmates before any release.