Prime Minister Netanyahu is a reformer. He wants to succeed where others have failed and to be remembered as one who made a meaningful difference. As Finance Minister, Netanyahu effectively implemented reforms that changed stagnant economic structures, enhanced market competition and enabled economic growth in Israel. Conceptual change was the basic common denominator in most of those reforms.
A similar conceptual reform is needed in Israel's efforts to free Gilad Shalit and prevent similar predicaments in the future. After four years of futile negotiations - change is called for.
The proposal on the table is the release of 1,000 terrorists in return for Gilad. In fact, the proposal, which Netanyahu agreed to, has been on the table for months without any response from Hamas.
The change should include the following:
1) Israel should shift “time” to its side. The four-year negotiations process has served Hamas well. The terrorist organization, which was once ostracized by Israel and most of the West, has gained international recognition as an entity that needs to at least be negotiated with. In order to change this paradox, Israel should make Hamas pay for each day it holds Gilad hostage. It should inform the mediator that henceforth one terrorist would be removed from the proposed list for every day Gilad continues to endure in captivity.
2) Israel should identify what is truly important to Hamas and act accordingly. Gilad Shalit and the negotiations for his freedom are currently more important to Hamas than the release of 1,000 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. There are, however, two things that are far more important to the Hamas leadership than Gilad: The survival of their regime and their personal safety. Israel is fully justified to target the Hamas leadership responsible for Gilad’s captivity and should exercise that right.
3) On a strategic level, once Gilad is released and with an eye to the future, Israel should ban negotiations with terrorists. In order to discourage future hostage situations and subsequent negotiations, Israel should adopt its erstwhile policy – the one the United States and Great Britain still hold - whereby negotiation with terrorist organizations for the release of hostages is out of the question.
It has been proven time and again that the release of terrorists leads to more terror and no one knows this better than Netanyahu. The 1,500 terrorists released in 1985 laid the foundation for the first Intifada in 1987. After the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, 6,912 Palestinian terrorists were released as part of “confidence-building measures”. Of those, 854 were later arrested for acts of terrorism and many more laid the foundation for the second Intifada in 2000.
More recently, in January 2004, Israel released 400 terrorists in return for an Israeli drug dealer named Tennenbaum. Released terrorists from that ill-conceived deal have killed 27 Israelis. In fact, in the last decade alone, 180 Israelis have been killed and hundreds wounded by terrorists who were released from Israeli jails.
The policy of releasing terrorists in exchange for hostages needs reform. Statutory reform, which helps verify that incarcerated terrorists will not terrorize in the future, might make a meaningful difference.
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