Shin Bet security service director Yoram Cohen said Wednesday that the prisoner swap agreement reached between Israel and Hamas, with Egyptian mediation, to free Gilad Shalit included the best terms possible for Israel in regards to security.
“If there was a better alternative, operationally or through negotiations, perhaps we would have chosen it,” Cohen said during a press briefing. “But I think we got the best deal in terms of security parameters.”
Palestinian security prisoners to be released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal between Israel and Hamas include the murderers of kidnapped IDF soldiers Nachshon Wachsman, Ilan Sasportas and Ilan Saadon.
Other prisoners being released include the perpetrator of the Bus 405 Tel Aviv-Jerusalem attack in 1989, the terrorist who killed 10 Israelis in Wadi Harmiyeh north of Ramallah in 2002, the terrorist who brought the suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, several perpetrators of the lynch in Ramallah in October 2000. . . . Of the 479 prisoners being released in the first stage, 279 were serving life sentences.
It speaks volumes about the value Israel places on a single life, and the familial-like ties that bind a small country, that all of these killers would be released to spare a single innocent soul. And (perhaps by design) it suggests that Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. stunt is costing him dearly. Hamas is getting over a thousand of its thugs back, but what has Abbas gotten?
And still, the question on the minds of Israelis remains: Was it worth it? An American-born journalist whose lived in Israel for about 30 years e-mails me, “ I think a whole lot of other Shalits are going to be abducted.”
And of course there is the peril to other Israelis. The prime minister’s office vowed that any released Palestinian who “strayed” from the restrictions or engaged in terrorism would be “hunted down.”But the fear remains: How many of them will kill again?
Daniel Gordis, president of the Shalem Foundation and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, writes in a soon to-be released article, “No one in Israel is calling the agreement just signed for Gilad Shalit’s freedom a ‘good deal.’ On many levels, it’s terrible. Israel is releasing more than 1000 prisoners for one soldier, several hundred of whom are considered hardened terrorists.” But he says the beseiged Jewish nation, in the midst of the chaos of the Arab Spring and ongoing efforts to delegitimize it, has “made a choice to return to their roots, to restore to the fore a central tenet of old time Israeli ideology – ‘we do not leave our sons in the field.’”
I can’t help but think, as Jews around the world have just experienced the High Holy Days, of the “Unetanah Tokef,” one of the central prayers in the liturgy. It includes this:
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning,
Who shall have rest and who shall wander,
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be at rest and who shall be tormented,
Israel is a modern nation acting each day on its Biblical and ethical precepts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all too aware of the moral dilemmas at the heart of running a Jewish state. In a moving statement he told his cabinet and his countrymen:
I must point out that not a day went by without us trying various ways to bring Gilad home, any way possible, and that didn’t work either. In the last few weeks, the negotiations were renewed in Cairo, this time with the Egyptian government as mediator. My instructions to the team were to adhere to the principles and framework that are important for the security of the State of Israel, which I will detail in the meeting.
There is an in-built tension between the desire to bring back an abducted soldier, or citizen, and the need to maintain the security of the citizens of Israel. This is my dual responsibility as prime minister.
The deal I am bringing to the government expresses the right balance between all of these considerations. I do not wish to hide the truth from you — it is a very difficult decision. I feel for the families of victims of terror, I appreciate their suffering and distress, I am one of them. But leadership must be examined at moments such as this, being able to make difficult, but right, decisions. . . .
This morning I Invited Noam Shalit to my residence, and I spoke on the phone with the mother, Aviva, and the grandfather, Zvi. I told them that I am keeping my promise and I’m bringing their son and grandson home. I told them, “I’m bringing your boy back.” I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives, and if all goes as planned, Gilad will be back in Israel in the next few days with his family and his people.
The nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other, as our sages said: “He who saves one soul, it is as though he saved an entire world.” Tonight, I bring the government a proposal to save Gilad Shalit, to finally bring him home to Israel after five years..
This certainly is an argument for the death penalty for terrorists. The fewer killers to be released one day, the better. But that, like the heart-wrenching decision that pits one life against potential losses in the future, is for the Jewish state to decide. There is no country on the planet that must wrestle with the choices that the Jewish state makes every day. .If nothing else, this should remind the sneering critics who bark directives from the comfort of their European parliaments, the West Wing offices and the meeting rooms of left-wing anti-Zionist groups masquerading as “human rights” watchdogs that there is no country in which the dividing line between security and mayhem is so thin and in which the democratically elected leaders bear the weight of the survival of their current citizens and an entire people.