The price of prisoner swaps

The murder of Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, has shocked the nation.

Tomer Hazan (photo credit: Courtesy Hazan family)
Tomer Hazan
(photo credit: Courtesy Hazan family)
The murder of Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, has shocked the nation. Nidal Amar, 42, the Palestinian who admitted to murdering Hazan, said he had hoped to use his corpse to secure the release of his terrorist brother, Nur al-Din Amar, from an Israeli prison.
The brother was arrested in 2003 for involvement in several terrorist incidents, including a shooting in the village of Azun, in which one Israeli civilian was wounded, and the planning of a suicide attack that was to have been carried out by a female bomber inside Israel. Security forces thwarted the plot.
Compounding the tragedy are the circumstances surrounding the murder. A friendship had supposedly developed between the two men as a result of their work together at Tzachi Meats in Bat Yam – Hazan as a delivery boy (he had received permission from the IDF to work while serving in the air force) and Amar as a kitchen worker. Amar took advantage of Hazan’s trust and innocence to lure him to his death in the Palestinian village of Beit Amin, south of Kalkilya.
A number of lessons can be drawn. First, soldiers must strictly adhere to IDF regulations regarding travel in the West Bank, particularly against the backdrop of warnings that Palestinian terrorists are making a special effort to kidnap soldiers. Second, Israeli businesses must not employ Palestinians who lack work permits.
The murder underlines the steep price Israel pays for releasing Palestinian terrorists.
In July 2008, PLO terrorist Samir Kuntar and four Hezbollah terrorists were released along with the bodies of 199 Hezbollah men in exchange for the bodies of IDF reservests Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
In October 2011, the government agreed to release 1,027 Palestinians, mostly terrorists, incarcerated in Israel jails in exchange for tank gunner Gilad Schalit, whom Hamas had kidnapped in June 2006.
In July of this year, in a more controversial move that this paper opposed, the government agreed to release more than 100 long-term Palestinian terrorist convicts in exchange for nothing tangible, just a grudgingly conceded agreement by the PLO to restart talks after a nearly three-year hiatus.
The first group of terrorists has already been released and the next phase will be implemented soon.
Every time Israel agrees to an unequal prisoner swap, a dangerous dynamic is set in motion. If large numbers of prisoners are released in exchange for a few kidnapped Israeli soldiers – alive or dead – Palestinian terrorists such as Amar are encouraged to kidnap, and kill, more soldiers. Not surprisingly, Israel currently faces a concerted effort to do just that on the part of Palestinian terrorist groups. Twenty-seven attempts to abduct soldiers were foiled in the first six months of the year – twice as many as the same period in 2012.
And when prisoners – including those “with blood on their hands” – are released before they serve their sentences, it emboldens Palestinian terrorists such as Amar who rightly gamble that they too will be released early in a prisoner swap or a “goodwill gesture.” And they have good reason to be optimistic.
Amna Muna, who was given a life sentence in 2003 for luring 16-year-old Ofir Rahum to Ramallah, where Fatah terrorists killed him, was released after serving just eight years in the Schalit prisoner swap.
Throughout nearly two millennia of exile, the Jewish people’s high regard for life has been exploited by ransom- seekers. As a result, Jews developed an extensive rabbinic literature to deal with the moral and legal issues involved. And there are no clear-cut answers. On one hand, Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575), in his codex of Jewish law titled the Shulchan Aruch, rules that redeeming Jewish captives takes precedent over all other charitable causes. On the other hand, in an act of astounding selflessness, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (1215-1293) issued a ruling from his cell ordering his students and supporters not to pay the exorbitant ransom demanded by the German who had kidnapped him. The rabbi knew that if the ransom were paid, there would be no end to extortion attempts against the Jewish community. Rabbi Meir died in captivity seven years after he was kidnapped.
There are no easy answers when deliberating the release of Palestinian prisoners. Hazan’s murder this weekend is a sad reminder of the risks involved.