Ya’alon alludes to hidden considerations in prisoner release

"We had to decide between bad and worse," defense minister tells new draftees at absorption base at Tel Hashomer.

Yaalon at IDF Home Front Command’s base 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Yaalon at IDF Home Front Command’s base 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon referred on Monday to unseen considerations that are far from the public eye as the main catalyst for Israel’s decision to release imprisoned Palestinian terrorists.
Speaking at the IDF’s absorption base for new draftees at Tel Hashomer, Ya’alon said, “Releasing prisoners came as a result of choosing a bad option over a worse option… We reached the decision to avoid the worse [option]. Many strategic considerations, which may be revealed in the future, stood behind this, and hence we must go forward with a release of pre-Oslo prisoners.”
Some analysts have suggested that Israel agreed to the release as part of its efforts to secure American support in a potential military confrontation with Iran over Tehran’s expanding nuclear program.
Ya’alon said the decision was made “with a heavy heart.”
“These are murderers,” he said. “This is a challenge to justice, to law and to bereaved families, and I hear their voices.”
He added that the release also posed challenges to deterrence and security, but said those problems could be dealt with.
“We are embarking on this maneuver responsibly, with good judgement, and we’ll be able to provide an answer to security aspects… I know who these prisoners are, how many they are, what they did, [and] when they did it,” Ya’alon said.
Speaking to newly enlisted soldiers who are slated to join the Artillery Corps and Home Front Command, Ya’alon said, “I’m sure you’ve got lots of butterflies in your stomach. I had them when I was drafted. You’re going toward the unknown, but many before you have passed it. The IDF knows how to receive and direct you in accordance with what you know.”
He said that every soldier experiences crises during his or her mandatory service, but that the emphasis lies in overcoming them.
“You’re coming to the army at a time that looks relatively calm, but that’s not a given, since, for example, on the Syrian border there have already been a number of incidents.”
Ya’alon cited the Artillery Corps and Armored Corps as the forces that silenced Syrian army positions that had attacked the IDF in recent months.
“We created a balance of deterrence on the Golan Heights, and despite what is happening in Syria, they do not dare violate the quiet. When this happens, we respond accordingly.”
“This is true also of the Gaza and Sinai borders,” Ya’alon added.
The Home Front Command is prepared to form a response to the main threat facing Israel at this time, rockets and missiles, the defense minister added.
Ya’alon said fears of a third intifada were overblown, but he added that relations between Israel and the Palestinians are unstable, and that Israel would like to stabilize the situation through a peace arrangement.
“But it is they who ran away from the table until now. In the past four years, certainly in [former prime minister] Olmert’s period, Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] ran away from the table.”
He added, “Does the other side recognize at all our right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people within any borders? Is it prepared for any type of territorial compromise that will put an end to the conflict and demands? These and other questions are ahead of us, and we’ll see [what the answers are]. We’ll set out on the path, ask the questions, and we’ll see what kind of answers we get.
“Accordingly, we’ll know from the Palestinian side if we can reach an agreement.”