Lessons from Terrorism Negotiations and the Deal for Gilad Schalit

What is so troubling about the deal for Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit and Israel’s other lopsided trades is the message it sends to the terrorists.  Israel will trade a thousand for one. All the terrorists have to do to rescue their murderers is to kidnap an Israeli and strike a deal. Hamas, in its welcoming statements to its returning murderers, exhorted its fighters to kidnap Israelis.

The deal enabled the Palestinians to lionize and show compassion for the released murderers. Amnesty International found moral equivalence between an abducted soldier and people incarcerated because they had blood on their hands. The exchange provided Hamas with a major propaganda victory, especially over the competing Fatah, for whose members it also negotiated releases.

Wafa al-Biss, who wanted to blow up an Israeli hospital unit that had been giving her free medical care, met in her home in North Gaza with school children who came to celebrate her freedom. She urged them to follow in her footsteps and become martyrs. At the conclusion of the meeting, the children sang nationalistic songs and of their desire to give their souls and blood for Palestine.

In Lebanon, Samir Kuntar, who killed  four-year-old Einat Haran by smashing her head against a rock with his rifle butt, called for kidnapping more Israelis. Over the protests of Einat’s mother, whose husband was also killed in the attack, Kuntar was released in 2008 as part of an exchange for the bodies of three Israelis. In Lebanon, Kuntar is celebrated as a national hero, and the murderous Syrian dictator Bashir Assad, who is now shooting his own people in the streets, awarded Kuntar a medal.

The Schalit deal, as the one in 2008, says to the terrorists, if you are incarcerated in Israel, it is only a matter of time before you can be rescued. We have a visible route for you to freedom. Even if you kill a four year old with your own hands, we can deal for your release.

All the Schalit deal will produce is more terrorists, more victims, and more families burying loved ones. These are now nameless and faceless people, but in the months to come these victims will have to be enumerated as part of the calculus of this decision.

Israel is a country in the Middle East, not in Western Europe. Israel should understand with whom and what it is dealing. Clearly, it doesn’t or it wouldn’t reward a culture that celebrates as a hero a man who killed a four-year-old girl with the butt of his rifle -- a  culture that equates the return of the murderers of innocents with the return of a soldier.