Melanie Phillips

11 October 2011

A deal with the devil

Published in: Daily Mail

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The dramatic news this evening that Israel and the Hamas have agreed a deal which will see the return to Israel of its kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, will be provoke the most bitterly mixed reactions amongst Israelis and all who care about peace and justice. If Shalit is indeed returned alive and well, it will of course be a matter for rejoicing that he is unharmed after his appalling five-year ordeal and that the terrible suffering of his family is now at an end.

But the price that Israel has reportedly agreed to pay for his release is itself a terrible one which will have untold consequences. It will apparently release 1000 Palestinian prisoners, including 400 serving long sentences for some of the worst terrorist atrocities in the country's history.

For the IDF it is a moral imperative to bring home its fallen or captured soldiers. But the terrible thing is that by releasing 1000 terrorists back to Gaza and the West Bank, it makes it more likely that not just the Hamas but Hezbollah in Lebanon too will redouble their efforts to kidnap yet more Israeli soldiers in order to further this devilish barter.

So while this deal – brokered by Egypt and Germany -- redeems one Israeli soldier, it puts more Israeli soldiers at risk. Moreover, it strengthens Hamas in Gaza  -- they are already boasting that this is a great victory -- makes it more likely that more Israelis will be murdered by terrorism in Israel, and demoralises those IDF soldiers who brought these 1000 terrorists to justice in the first place.

And Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu knows all this. As the Jerusalem Post notes, in a book published in 1995 Netanyahu wrote that prisoner exchanges were

‘“a mistake that Israel made over and over again” and that refusing to release terrorists from prison was “among the most important policies that must be adopted in the face of terrorism.

“The release of convicted terrorists before they have served their full sentences seems like an easy and tempting way of defusing blackmailed situations in which innocent people may lose their lives, but its utility is momentary at best,” Netanyahu wrote. “Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.”

Worse still, it seems that Israel has now gone back on its previous opposition to such a deal, apparently because it fears that with Egypt about to turn hostile any chance of freeing Shalit would disappear out of the window. The Jerusalem Post reports:

‘The framework for this deal has been on the table for years, but was rejected as Israel demanded that the terrorists with blood on their hands be deported to Gaza or abroad, and Hamas demanded that all the names they submitted be on the list. In the final analysis, both sides showed flexibility, with Israel agreeing to let hundreds, but not all, of the released terrorist remain in the West Bank, and Hamas dropped some of the names on its list.’

So now Israel will have hundreds of terrorists literally just down the road, presumably poised to strike yet again and murder more Israel innocents.

Either way, this was a terrible decision to have to take.

On the other hand, once Shalit comes home the Hamas in Gaza will have lost their most valuable human shield of all. For five years, they have used their young Israeli captive -- whose fate has been the focus of such public agony within Israel -- to tie the Israelis’ military hands. Now, it would seem, all such bets will be off.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie