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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gilad Shalit - Prisoner Exchange is Bad Policy for Israel

Israel appears to have made an agreement to release prisoners to the Paletinian Authority in exchange for Gilad Shalit.  To recap, Shalit was kinapped at the border by Hamas five years ago.  Prior to this negotiated exchange, Israel has released prisoners just to get proof of life. 

The only beneficiary of such a deal is the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu.  His cabinet is in danger of collapse due to a disgruntled citizenry.  This is a way for him to increase his poll ratings and remain in control of the government.  I liken this to Barack Obama's poll bump for "getting Bin Laden." 

Netenyahu should be aware that this will be a short term gain with long term repurcussions.  These prisoners will not go home as peace loving, rehabilitated people.  They will return with a large chip on their shoulder and a desire to stoke the fires of revenge for what they percieve was a wrongful imprisonment. 

This exchange emboldens the enemies of Israel to take more actions against Israel and its soldiers and places others in mortal danger.  I feel for the family of Gilad Shalit and their desire to have their son returned home but a country cannot be run based on emotion or political campaign decisions.  This the wrong move and will have long term consequences for Israel.  It is bad policy to negotiate with terrorists and the governments that support them.

I previously wrote about this policy several years ago and would like to republish that post here as it is still VERY relevant:

On Wednesday, 16 July 2008, the Israeli government exchanged live criminals in exchange for two dead soldiers’ remains. This was a result of a near unanimous decision in the Israeli parliament. New organizations are billing this as a close to the 2006 war which resulted from the kidnapping of the now returned soldiers’ bodies. The Israeli government has had a long standing policy of bringing their “boys” home, dead or alive at all costs.

The question I ask is: “What is the cost of such an exchange?”

It is mandatory that Israelis citizens of age must serve in the military. There are some exceptions to this but by and large, everyone serves in some capacity. I have not heard of any movement to abolish the mandatory service policy so I will assume that it will stay in place for the long term future.Therefore, there is no need for the military to have a public relations or marketing campaign to attract recruits. Surely, this policy would serve such a need but the need does not exist. 

This leaves only two beneficiaries of the return policy: the deceased’s family and politicians.

I understand the idea of giving closure to the families of kidnapped of missing soldiers. An exchange does not solve this problem without possibly creating more families of deceased citizens as a result of repeat murderous offenses by those released. Israel has placed getting closure for these families above the lives of all other families in Israel.

I am not trying to be crass or insensitive, but a kidnapped soldier or a missing soldier should, given the nature of the enemy, be presumed dead. The only thing a returned body allows for is that single family to benefit. Why does it matter where the dead body is buried? Will those families offer solace to the new families that bury their children, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones in the same cemetery as a result of a repeated offense by one of the freed prisoners or the new and dangerous assaults made by an emboldened enemy?

It was an uneven exchange. The trade was not criminal for criminal or soldier for soldier. A murderous criminal serving a life sentence is not the equivalence of a victim of a crime or a soldier in a professional state army. A soldier is a defender of his government’s orders and policies. A murderer serves no purpose other than his own. It is not sanctioned by the government (although in this case it was recognized by the government as such). It is a private act of rage and destruction against a private citizen.

The international community has been absent in recognizing and distinguishing the types of prisoners that each side has. Israel should not be asked to return criminals in exchange for soldiers. These soldiers were kidnapped by an enemy state or government or group recognized by the government as a legitimate military force. As such, rules of combat should apply.

Imagine if Mexico kidnapped two American soldiers at the border and in exchange for the return of their remains wanted 400 Mexican gang members to be returned to their homeland. To take this one step further, these gang members would be set free upon their return and welcomed home as heroes. Even more, what if one of the gang members had murdered a Los Angeles police officer, a father right in front of his daughter, then the daughter, and caused the mother to smother her child in a failed attempt at saving both their lives from his murderous intentions? Now let us suppose such a deal is made. There is still a real possibility that those gang member prisoners can come back into the country and commit further crimes. Are you outraged? Does it seem uneven, even pointless to exchange the prisoners for the dead?

The international community, especially the German mediator, touted the exchange as necessary and a positive step in the right direction for the two sides. This statement shows a clear bias against the citizens of Israel. The government has acted in a corrupt and morally bankrupt manner in approving the exchanges. Political expediency and short-sighted thinking lead to a failed policy and a series of actions by the government that places a greater value on the dead than the living. By negotiating this exchange the International community and Israeli government legitimize the actions of the terrorist states and organizations. This creates a legitimate mode of action for the terrorists to free their criminal brethren.

The cost is too high. May the soldiers rest in peace, but perhaps they should not do so in Israel at the cost of future dead Israeli citizens. May the families find comfort in life, but not at the cost of future Israeli families losing a loved one. This policy must end.