Early in August, reports regarding an Israeli born ISIS fighter, who wanted to return, emerged. However, discussion on the topic has not developed since. The Israeli government should take a clear stance on this matter: a definitive no.
Sayyaf Sharif Daoud is attempting to exploit the nature of Israel. He makes the point of appealing to the democratic character of Israel, even going further to reference the lengths Israel goes to in securing the return of captured soldiers. In this respect, Daoud is clever. He is clearly aware of the accusations often levied against Israel and is creating a test out of his return for Netanyahu. Are you truly democratic?
Spoiler, he fails.
The phenomenon of an ISIS member returning isn’t new, the UK experienced it with Shamima Begum last year. Unlike Begum, Daoud isn’t a young vulnerable pregnant woman in a refugee camp with little hope. Begum wasn’t even allowed to return (let alone her citizenship was revoked), what hope does Daoud have?
Neither does Daoud have the right to liken himself to a captured IDF soldier. The Israeli government owes its soldiers a duty to ensure they return home, which is why they strive for the return of captive ones. Not only was Daoud not in the service of the State of Israel when he was caught, but the complete opposite! Daoud left the state to partake in an undisputed terrorist organisation, one whose ideology is contrary to that of the global society.
But surely, if public opinion was in his favour, he would likely return no? Could you envisage a scenario where anyone, never mind a majority, would be in favour of his return to society? Simply said, no. We are talking about returning to a state where terrorism has troubled its citizens, and where national security is at the centre of politics. Daoud, who lacks any significant humanitarian grounds, stands no chance. Israeli society isn’t going to take him back.
Are we meant to feel sympathetic that he wasn’t treated equally when he was part of ISIS? My apologies that a radical Islamist terrorist group isn’t too fond of an Israeli. My apologies that a country that has been ravaged by civil war since 2011 wasn’t all that was promised. However, few Israelis, especially Netanyahu, will be falling head over heels for the return of Sayyaf Sharif Daoud. The Israeli government needs to officially announce their position on the matter, and it could well be the only thing they can all agree on this summer.
Daoud won’t returning to Israeli society anytime soon (although an extradition to an Israeli prison may be in the mind of some). His attempt to test Netanyahu, while intuitive, fails. The return of a captured ISIS fighter is not a test of how democratic Israel is: it isn’t indicative at all of how democratic a state is. It’s a test of sympathy, and put bluntly, Daoud isn’t winning any sympathy in Israel.
(The decision to revoke Shamima Begum’s citizenship is currently under judicial review in the English courts, although this wouldn’t alter attitudes in Israel if the decision were to be overturned ).