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