Background: In book, PM warned not to release terrorists

He might be pushing the Schalit deal now, but Binyamin Netanyahu was not always so gung-ho about prisoner exchange deals.

October 12, 2011 05:45
2 minute read.
Natenyahu announcing Schalit deal

Natanyahu Schalit meeting 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of GPO)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned against exchanging terrorists for kidnapped soldiers in his 1995 book, Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists, writing that it was “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.

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“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.”

But Netanyahu has not always practiced what he preaches when it comes to prisoner releases. In his first term as prime minister, he released Hamas mentor Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from jail in 1997 in order to bring about the release of Israeli agents who had failed to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Jordan.

Both as prime minister and finance minister, Netanyahu voted to release terrorists from jail on several occasions. But he made a point of insisting that none of the prisoners who were freed had “blood on their hands.”

In 1996, Netanyahu gave Hezbollah 45 Shi’ite prisoners and more than 100 bodies of Hezbollah terrorists in exchange for the remains of IDF soldiers Yosef Fink and Rahamim Alsheik. In 1997, he released 750 prisoners as part of the Hebron Accord and 250 ahead of the Wye Plantation Agreement. None of the prisoners had blood on their hands.

As finance minister in November 2003, Netanyahu voted to release 430 prisoners in return for the release of Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of IDF soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sawayid.


Netanyahu justified his vote by ensuring that no terrorists with blood on their hands would be released, but he absented himself from a final vote on the exchange two months later.

Netanyahu also voted for two prisoner releases in 2003 and one in 2005. He voted against releasing prisoners in 2005 as part of the Sharm e- Sheikh accord.

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