The prisoner swap approved by the cabinet
to release Gilad Schalit “is the best
deal possible,” Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yoram Cohen said
Wednesday, while noting that the release of 1,000 prisoners would likely
increase Hamas’s motivation to attack Israel and try to abduct more
“If there had been a better deal or viable military operation,
we would have chosen it,” Cohen told reporters during a briefing at Shin Bet
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“I think this is a tough and difficult deal, but it is the
best deal for Israel from a security perspective. It is not simple to release
280 murderers. Hamas will be strengthened by this and Fatah will likely be
weakened, and this might even increase motivation for more attacks and
kidnappings,” he added.
Under the deal – expected to take place next week
– Israel will release 450 Palestinian prisoners.
Ninety-six will be
released to their homes in the West Bank, 14 to their homes in Jerusalem and 131
to their homes in the Gaza Strip. Another 163, who are from the West Bank, will
be deported to Gaza, and 40 from the West Bank will be deported
Six Israeli Arabs are also being released as part of the
“I think that we will be able to deal with the threat and potential
dangers,” Cohen said. “We cannot promise that they will not produce terror.
Statistics show that 60 percent of those released in prisoner swaps return to
activity in their terrorist organizations and that 15-20% return to Israeli
Out of the 110 released to east Jerusalem and the West Bank, 55
are affiliated with Hamas. Half of the 110, Cohen said, will be under security
restrictions preventing them from traveling overseas for 10 years and from
entering Israel. Every month this group will need to report to a nearby IDF base
or Israel Police station.
In addition, out of the prisoners deported to
Gaza and overseas, 15 – chosen by Israel – will be able to return to their homes
in the West Bank a year from their release. Another 18 will be able to return in
three years, another 55 in 10 years, and the remaining in some 25
Cohen downplayed the impact the release of some 300 prisoners
would have on Hamas’s military capabilities in the Gaza Strip – even though
among those released are almost all of the senior-Hamas terrorists from Gaza
currently jailed by Israel.
“There are 20,000 Izzadin Kassam members in
Gaza, and another 200 are not going to make a huge difference,” he
“Hamas is not interested in an escalation. It has a lot of internal
problems that led it to take this deal.”