A group of leading Zionist-religious rabbis have drafted a document that for the first time presents clear guidelines for prisoner swaps.
The guidelines in the document include the need to take future risk into consideration. Other principles include a call to engage in more moderate efforts in cases where abductees risk themselves needlessly, and a ban on releasing live detainees in exchange for bodies.
The rabbis who signed the document include Shlomo Aviner, Yaakov Ariel, Haim Druckman, and Dov Lior. The guidelines state that previous swaps completed by Israel were characterized by the "absence of clear criteria" and by a "dangerous preference for the welfare of the individual captive (or casualty) over the public's wellbeing."
The document includes a total of six brief clauses and is backed up with Jewish law sources for the various rulings.
The rabbis begin with an uncompromising rule of thumb: "Despite the importance of the mitzvah of prisoner redemption, any deal for the exchange of terrorist prisoners must be weighed with the public's best interest in mind, as well as its effect on national security in the short and long term".
"National security is affected, among other things, by the deterrence of enemies and their debilitation, as well as the willingness of soldiers to risk themselves knowing that a great effort will be made to release them if they are captured," the rabbis say.
"A decision on a deal should consider intelligence agencies' assessments of the future risk that it carries."
Three basic principles
The rabbis call for a policy of negotiations based on three basic principles, each one derived from scenarios experienced by Israel over the years.
Hinting at the Tannenbaum deal, the document says that "the level of effort invested in releasing a man who unlawfully endangered himself should be lower."
Regarding the return of corpses, such as deals made for IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the document says that "despite the mitzvah of bringing a fallen soldier to burial in Israel, it is prohibited to release live terrorists in exchange for corpses".
Regarding cases such as that of Shalit, the rabbis say that "a special effort must be invested in releasing security personnel who served the country".