Once again, Hamas is cynically exploiting Israeli society’s hypersensitivity to the value of life to advance its cause of destruction and death. Once again, all of us are being subjected to the emotional blackmail that feeds on the Jewish people’s inclination to pay the most exorbitant price to save a life.Less than four years ago, 1,027 Palestinian terrorists who collectively were responsible for the deaths of 569 Israelis, were released in exchange for a single Israeli – Gilad Schalit. At the time, most Israelis supported the swap.Once again, all of our hearts are with the victims of cynical Islamist terrorists. Avraham Mengistu has been taken captive by Hamas. And another as-yet-unnamed Israeli from the Beduin village of Hura also is apparently in Hamas’s custody. Both reportedly entered Gaza of their own volition and were later kidnapped. Both reportedly have psychological disorders.None of us can help but sympathize with the Mengistu family as they beseech the government to “do everything” to bring their son Avraham back from the clutches of the Hamas terrorists holding him for ransom.
See the latest opinion pieces on our pageBut while it is only human to identify with the pain and suffering of the kidnapped Israelis’ families, we must tear our hearts and minds away from pondering another Schalit-like prisoner swap.The picture is still sketchy. Some Hamas officials are claiming to have no knowledge of the current whereabouts of Mengistu. Still others claim Mengistu was grabbed and interrogated but then was set free. At the same time, others in Hamas have indicated that the two Israelis are indeed in Hamas custody. Information will be provided only if Israel agrees to release many Palestinian terrorists currently serving sentences in Israeli prisons.At a rally in Gaza last week, Hamas displayed a huge model fist holding a mock up of fallen soldier Oren Shaul’s ID card and two other IDF ID’s with question marks on them, implying that Hamas is holding two Israeli soldiers captive. This is more of Hamas’s lies – Mengistu, who suffered from unspecified mental issues, was rejected for IDF service.Assuming that Mengistu and the other missing Israeli are still alive and are being held captive by Hamas, we cannot afford another Schalit-like prisoner swap for a number of reasons.As we witnessed after the Schalit deal, the release of a large number of hardened Hamas terrorists strengthens the organization. These men return to their old ways with the knowledge that even if they are arrested again, they stand a good chance of being released. This perversion of justice is demoralizing for the security personnel who risked their lives to put these men in prison in the first place.There is also a strong correlation between prisoner releases and an uptick in terrorist activities. This was true after the May 1985 Jibril deal in which Israel released 1,150 Palestinian terrorists, including Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, in exchange for three Israeli POWs. And it has been proven true after the Schalit deal, as well. It is not fair to expose Israelis to a future terrorist attack in order to release an Israeli presently in danger.These highly lopsided prisoner swaps, in which a few Israeli prisoners are exchanged for a thousand Palestinian terrorists, increase motivation for additional kidnappings.The only way to stop this cycle of kidnappings and prisoner swaps is by refusing to cooperate with Hamas.It is only natural to hear the pain of the families of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas. And as a nation, that’s what we should be doing. But our political leaders are obligated to make a more hard-headed calculation based on cold analysis, not gut feelings. They should not be swayed by the public rallies, vigils and calls for a Palestinian prisoner release that are likely to come.
We tell ourselves we would do the same if it was our son, or brother or loved-one being held captive in a dark cell in a Gaza prison by Islamist extremists. Even if it meant releasing hundreds of Palestinian terrorists, we would still demand that the government carry out the exchange.