Burning Issues 29: Barghouti for Schalit?

Question #29
Should the inclusion of Marwan Barghouti in a list of prisoners Israel would free in exchange for Gilad Schalit be considered a deal-breaker for Israel? What if it were a deal-breaker for the Palestinians? Contributers: (read it all or click on name to read post; link to writer's most recent column follows entry)
  • Gershon Baskin
  • Elliot Jager
  • Isi Leibler
  • Amotz Asa-El Gershon Baskin: Marwan Barghouti should be released from prison immediately regardless of the Shalit deal and not even connected to it. While he is no angel, he is one of the most important political leaders in Palestine and someone who is necessary to ensure the success of the moderates in Palestine who are willing and ready to make peace with Israel. Marwan Barghouti was convicted of murder without ever murdering anyone. He has no blood on his hands according to his conviction. He was arrested and prosecuted while he served as a member of the Palestinian Parliament. He was re-elected to the Parliament while serving his six consecutive life sentences. I have known Marwan Barghouti for years personally. I have spent dozens and perhaps hundreds of hours with him in meetings with Israeli figures. He is a man of principle. He would be a tough negotiator with Israel, but he is a man who's word has value. He is a grass-roots leader of his people. While in prison he has led the process of internal Palestinian reconciliation. He has also twice led processes that brought about a ceasefire with Israel. He is a Palestinian nationalist, a Palestinian patriot and a man of peace. In the interests of Israel, he should be released now. The lessons of surprise Elliot Jager: No enemy prisoners should be released in exchange for Gilad Schalit. Not one. The only tolerable exchange would be to trade new prisoners (including Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament) taken subsequent to Schalit's capture. But even this should only be done if these new prisoners were not captured in connection with a planned terrorist operation. The idea of freeing Marwan Barghouti, it goes without saying, must be resisted. It would come back to haunt us, and it would raise enemy morale. It is precisely what the enemy most wants. It is precisely what it must not get. I find it sad that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not been able to articulate to the citizens of Israel why a prisoner exchange is a bad idea. He told the Knesset at the outset of this crisis that he would not cave to enemy demands. But if Olmert nevertheless goes ahead with a massive release of enemy prisoners knowing full well the price we will all pay in the coming months for such an "exchange," he will have lost the last shred of respect I had for him when I voted Kadima. We need to pursue the release of Schalit in more, shall we say, traditional ways. Right now, Hamas has one hostage. If the wrong kind of prisoner exchange is carried out, all of Israel falls hostage. And what of the young IDF men who are right now operating behind enemy lines and taking additional prisoners? Is their dangerous and vital work to be for naught? I know it is unpopular to say so, but better that Schalit should sit longer in captivity (assuming he's alive) than Barghouti (and other killers) should be released. If the Palestinians want the release of masses of prisoners they would be wise to make peace with Israel. That should be the incentive for a prisoner release. Repeat: Only the end of hostilities between the two sides should herald a prisoner release. Power & Politics: Taking Ghana for granted? Isi Leibler: Marwan Barghouti is only one of a list of murderers on the table for prisoner exchange. Our Prime Minister's undertaking that prisoners with blood on their hands would not be released is proving to be consistent with his previous bombastic undertakings. As Jews we have a long tradition of remaining committed to freeing Jews who have been kidnapped or become captives. We share, as a nation, the desperation of the families of those kidnapped to be reunited with their loved ones. And the day that a Jewish State changes its commitment to soldiers in captivity will be the day that we lose our souls. But what we are now indulging in is not compassion but acts that will further endanger Jews everywhere. The State - and its leaders - must consider the national interest. And if by conceding to outlandish demands we are paving the way for more murders and kidnappings this must not be tolerated. If our cruel enemies become convinced that by kidnapping one Israeli they can force us to automatically release murderers, they will understandably redouble their efforts. By releasing hardened killers and enabling them to return to their former murderous pursuits, the ultimate price we will be paying will be much harsher than a few hostages. We would also be incentivising more Palestinians to become terrorists when they realize that when captured, no matter how many Jews they murder, they face no death penalty and will ultimately be freed in prisoner exchanges. We need leaders to spell this out instead of capitulating and sowing the seeds for greater disasters in the future. It's time to reform the Claims Conference Amotz Asa-El: Sadly, the entire deal, as it is reportedly shaping up, must be avoided. Gilad Shalit was evidently kidnapped for the express purpose of blackmailing us into releasing killers who are likely to do yet more killing of innocent Israelis. We have tried this in the past, during the 1984 Jibreel deal, only to end up with many of the released soon getting involved in yet more terror. The Palestinians must be told that Shalit can be exchanged for a handful of prisoners who have not killed, and then be given a deadline for his release, after which their prisoners' treatment will be gradually worsened, beginning with reduced visits. www.MiddleIsrael.com Middle Israel: The business of the Arab League