Cross-posted from National Review Online, The Corner
Israeli leaders have a long history of making lopsided trades with their Arab enemies. These include:
1985 – 1,150 prisoners for 3 captured IsraelisI strenuously opposed these unbalanced exchanges (e.g., the Schalit one), even as I acknowledged the honorable Israeli intent not to abandon soldiers.
2000 – 450 Arab prisoners for 3 Israeli bodies and a kidnapped Israeli;
2008 – 5 Arab prisoners (including the psychopath Samir al-Kuntar) and 199 Arab bodies for 2 Israeli bodies;
2011 – 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit.
But there is nothing redeeming whatsoever in the exchange that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed today, releasing 104 murderers as a good-will gesture to encourage the Palestinian Authority to negotiate. Netanyahu justified this decision on the basis that "sometimes prime ministers are forced to make decisions that go against public opinion - when the issue is important for the country."
This is a specious argument. Much more persuasively, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon argues that this gesture "is a prize for the Palestinians, just for their willingness to sit with us at the negotiating table. This defines future standards of far-reaching concessions by Israel, vis-à-vis ridiculous demands by the other side." Danon rightly calls the release of dozens of terrorists who have the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands "lunacy."
Lunacy, but also immorality. The exchange betrays the families of victims and it betrays Israel's allies. It is a repugnant action.
To those who would excuse Netanyahu on the grounds that he feels pressure from the U.S. government, I reply: this a lame excuse, for Israelis can and have often stood up to misguided American leaders; further, it appears to be inaccurate, for Netanyahu has recently suggested that, under the spell of the Ben-Gurion complex, has himself become convinced of the need for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
One consolation is that the Israeli body politic has changed views: where as it approved the 2008 swap by a nearly 2-1 ratio, polling shows a 9-to-1 disapproval of the release of the 104. (July 27, 2013)