We are not dealing with a swap that includes the release of prisoners with blood on their hands in exchange for Gilad Shalit. What we have here is the release of prisoners with blood up to their ears.
Hamas’ original list, which was rejected by the Olmert government, included 125 such names, which the State of Israel rejected out of hand, saying they will never be released. This included the murderers who planned the attacks at a Haifa restaurant, at the Park Hotel, at the Tel Aviv beachfront promenade, at a Jerusalem café and restaurant, and many others slated to stay in prison until they die.
We are talking about the release of dozens of heavy-duty terrorists who were each sentenced to several life sentences, and who carried out the most horrifying attacks.
And so, the dilemma faced by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ministers today is the same dilemma: Is the State of Israel willing to release murderers, some of whom are military leaders seen as national symbols and serving as a model to members of the most radical Palestinian factions? People whose release will grant hope to every potential killer, by conveying a clear message: You can murder Jews. After all, eventually someone will secure your release.
Even if the German mediator is a magician, and even if at this very moment he is able to bridge the positions of both sides, the Shalit deal outline, as it is being presented these days by the Arab press, has fundamentally remained the same as it was during Olmert’s era.
Any way you look at it, Israel will be releasing 1,400 prisoners in exchange for Shalit: 450 based on Hamas’ list, another 550 as a gesture to Mahmoud Abbas and to Egyptian President Mubarak, and another 400 female detainees, teenagers, and parliament members under administrative detention.
And this is the second dilemma faced by the seven ministers looking into the Shalit affair: Is this the price the State of Israel needs, can, or wants to pay as result of the helplessness of its security agencies, which for three years were unable to secure information that could prompt Shalit’s release?
Desperate resuscitation attempts
The defense minister ordered the establishment of a committee in order to set rules that would oblige the State of Israel when facing the next abduction. The committee ruled that in the next swap, Israel will release one prisoner in exchange for one captive. In other words, the committee ruled that the Shalit swap is improper.
However, the committee’s conclusions will have no significance – either at present or in the future – as the Shalit deal will constitute the basis for any future negotiations. Just like the Shalit swap is premised on the precedent of the Jibril swap in 1995 and the Tannenbaum deal in 2004. In the Jibril Swap, three IDF soldiers were released in exchange for 1,150 terrorists, including 600 with blood on their hands. Later, 400 terrorists were released as part of the Tannenbaum deal.
The third dilemma is unique to the Netanyahu era. Should we see the mass release of prisoners, as described by foreign sources, Mahmoud Abbas can indeed go ahead and quit. Through this deal, the State of Israel is sentencing the Abbas government to death. At worst, this may lead to anarchy in the territories, while at best, we will see a revival among the radical camps within Fatah, which argue that there is no point in talking to Israel anyway and that violence pays off.
In order to compensate Abbas, and in order to try to keep his government in power in the wake of this blow, officials around here will have to come up with something along the lines of releasing hundreds of Fatah prisoners, significantly expanding the area under the Palestinian Authority’s control, a dramatic settlement construction halt, etc. Or in other words: Desperate resuscitation attempts.
And we have said nothing about Israel’s image in the world, and particularly in the Arab world, about domestic morale problems, and about a long list of other dilemmas faced by Netanyahu and his ministers.