Shin Bet chief: Schalit swap 'is the best deal possible'

Yoram Cohen says if there had been a viable military option, "we would have chosen it"; says he thinks Israel can "deal with potential dangers."

Gilad Schalit 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Gilad Schalit 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 soldiers.
“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 headquarters.
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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 overseas.
Six Israeli Arabs are also being released as part of the deal.
“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 prisons.”
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 years.
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 said.
“Hamas is not interested in an escalation. It has a lot of internal problems that led it to take this deal.”
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