Releasing terrorists doesn’t help flatten the curve
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According to a report on Wednesday in German weekly Die Zeit, Israel is close to reaching an agreement with Hamas on a prisoner release in exchange for fallen soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
According to a report on Wednesday in German weekly Die Zeit, Israel is close to reaching an agreement with Hamas. Though the details of the deal are murky, the gist is clear.
In exchange for the return of the bodies of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul from Gaza – and the release from lengthy captivity of civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – hundreds of Palestinian terrorists will be freed from Israeli jails.
To call this a “prisoner swap” is to obfuscate its true nature, by creating moral parity where it does not exist.
Goldin and Shaul were killed during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists, terrorist tunnels infrastructure and rocket launchers in Gaza in the summer of 2014. Since that time, Hamas has refused to relinquish their remains, despite repeated heart-wrenching pleas on the part of the Goldin and Shaul families for mercy.
The terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip is not as stupid as it is evil, after all. Indeed, Hamas honchos are well aware of the value that the Jewish state places on human life in general, and on that of its own populace in particular. They also know that the Jewish state does not abandon soldiers, dead or alive, in the battlefield.
Goldin and Shaul, then, are assets just as precious to Hamas as captives Mengistu and Sayed. All four are bargaining chips to hold over Israel’s head and cash in when the time is right.
Whether that time is now remains to be seen. But Channel 13 reported last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a Zoom conference call of the Ministerial Committee on Prisoners and Missing Persons – comprised of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Deri – to discuss the issue.
After the session, the government’s chief negotiator for the release of Israelis held by Hamas, Yaron Blum, met with the Goldins and Shauls to update them on the efforts underway to bring their boys home.
Israel has attempted over the years to pressure or negotiate with Hamas to relent – with the help of Swiss, Egyptian, Russian and German diplomats – to no avail. Apparently, during the last couple of months, talks progressed.
The Die Zeit article attributes this in part to the coronavirus crisis. On the one hand, Gaza needs protective gear from Israel to fend off the contagious disease. On the other, Israelis have been too preoccupied with COVID-19 repercussions to pay attention to a deal in the works that has the potential to put them at more violent risk than any microbe.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to tell how close the sides actually are to reaching an agreement, given the parties’ conflicting descriptions of the process.
Former Mossad official David Meidan, Netanyahu’s POW-MIA coordinator, told Die Zeit that there “seems to be a real possibility of a deal between Hamas and Israel right now… All the stars are aligning. For the past five years, there was the will of Hamas; there was the will of Israel; and now the gap between the two is not so huge.”
Meidan was the key negotiator in the deal that led to the release of Cpl. Gilad Schalit in 2011 – after five and a half years in Hamas captivity – in exchange for the release of 1,027 mainly Palestinian and Arab-Israeli terrorists from prison. His optimism, therefore, is both trustworthy and worrisome.
But Hamas is telling a different story. On Tuesday, for example, one of the group’s officials called news of an impending deal a “campaign to mislead the families of the Zionist prisoners and exert pressure on the Palestinian prisoners and their families.”
According to the Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh, the anonymous official was quoted by Hamas-affiliated websites as saying that “there is no qualitative progress in the negotiations conducted with the occupation through mediators,” and warning Palestinians not to believe the “programmed Zionist media.”
Of course, coming from a Hamas representative, such statements indicate nothing other than what message the group wants to convey for propaganda purposes. In this case, however, one hopes there’s truth to the lies.
Although Israelis across the political spectrum wept with joy when Schalit made it back home safely, many had opposed the deal for his release on two related grounds. One was that it served as additional incentive to Hamas to abduct soldiers for the purpose of extortion. The other was that the released terrorists would pose a grave danger to Israelis in uniform, blue jeans, bathing suits or diapers.
Both proved correct.
As soon as the terrorists were out of jail, they picked up where they left off. Some of those deported to Gaza became part of Hamas’s top echelons; others got to work developing and firing missiles at Israel. Those sent to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) promptly began rioting, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at passing cars and creating cells to mastermind more deadly attacks against Israelis.
Many of the above were apprehended and reincarcerated. Shockingly but not surprisingly, those are among the prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding today.
Which brings us to the case of Ahlam Tamimi, a female Hamas operative who assisted in the 2001 suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. The well-planned attack left 15 Israelis and tourists dead (including seven children and a pregnant woman) and another 130 wounded. Two Americans were among the casualties.
Tamimi – a 20-year-old student and part-time journalist at the time of the bombing – proudly pleaded guilty to her role in the slaughter and maiming of Jews. Convicted by an Israeli court in 2003, she received 16 consecutive life sentences. Eight years later, she was let out of prison as part of the Schalit exchange.
Shortly thereafter, she immigrated to Jordan, where she has been living – and living it up – ever since. She even became the host of a TV program, a great platform for the spread of jihad.
Upon her arrival in the Hashemite Kingdom, she told a Hamas website that she “would do it all over again. It was a calculated action that was conducted out of persuasion and faith in Allah.”
Her fellow Palestinian terrorists feel the same way. Remorse is a rarity among Jew-killers rewarded for their crimes by their own leaders and given cause by Israel to believe that there’s always room to negotiate a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Unlike the bulk of her counterparts, whose names are not familiar even to most Israelis, Tamimi gained international infamy three years ago. In March 2017, the FBI announced that it had placed her on its Most Wanted Terrorists list, and the US Justice Department requested that Jordan extradite her to the US to stand trial for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals on foreign soil, resulting in their death.
So far, Amman has refused, basing its objection on its extradition treaty with Washington. Hopefully, the latter will use leverage on the former to force King Abdullah to hand her over as soon as possible. But the fact that Israel freed her in the first place should serve as a cautionary tale.
THIS IS NOT to say that Israel had an easy choice. Nor does anybody blame Schalit’s parents for having staged a countrywide campaign on behalf of their beloved son. The same lack of rancor exists today in relation to the Mengistu and Sayed families – whose own sons are still alive somewhere in Gaza – and to the grieving parents of Goldin and Shaul, who seek proper burials for their boys in Israel.
The latter deserve particular sympathy for spending the past five and a half years urging Netanyahu to use the tools at his disposal to twist Hamas’s arm, not pay ransom in the form of prisoner releases. They also appealed to the US and the UN to intervene. At this point, they must feel that all they can do is pray for negotiations to bear fruit.
Other Israelis – especially those whose loved ones have been gunned down, run over or stabbed to death by released terrorists – are uttering an opposite prayer. And rightly so.
WE ENDURED weeks of government-imposed lockdowns, and continue to be coerced into following strict social-distancing rules and mandatory mask-wearing, all for the sake of “saving even a single life.”
Where does the unleashing of mass murderers fit into “flattening the curve”?