Michael Boyden

The Price of a Hostage Deal

I wouldn’t want to swap places with those who are trying to negotiate a deal for the release of those kidnapped on October 7th. Hamas is a merciless terrorist organization that does not share the moral code of a civilized society. To make a deal with them is to negotiate with the devil.

My heart goes out to the hostages, men, women, children and babies, being held in deplorable conditions, and whose families are living an endless nightmare not knowing the fate of their loved ones and when, and if, they will ever be re-united with them.

I don’t blame them for using every tactic at their disposal to pressure the government into taking whatever action is required to bring the hostages home.

Negotiations in 1968 to release Ron Arad failed. By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave in to Hamas demands and released 1,027 prisoners being held in Israeli jails, including terrorists who had blood on their hands, in return for the release of just one soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Israeli academic Dan Schueftan, who is chairman of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, is quoted as having said at the time: “I think that if we look at it in perspective, we will find that this is the greatest, significant win, the greatest significant victory for terrorism that Israel has made possible since its establishment”.

He added that Israel’s willingness to make such a lopsided prisoner swap was inviting further Hamas kidnappings. The events of October 7th unfortunately proved him to be right.

Many of those released in the Shalit exchange later returned to terrorist activity, and it is reasonable to assume that those who will be released from Israeli jails in return for some of the hostages will rejoin the Hamas ranks, and attack our soldiers currently engaged in rooting them out and locating those being held captive in the Gaza Strip.

It is reported that only yesterday Israeli security forces killed three terrorists in the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin, who had planned a further attack aimed at taking hostages. Giving in to the terrorists’ demands only serves to encourage them.

Unfortunately, the Jewish People have been the object of hostage taking throughout the ages. Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, who lived in 13th century Germany, warned of the danger of paying too high a price for his release, preferring to die in captivity.

We all pray that Israel will succeed in freeing the hostages, but not at any price. The Shalit case should have taught us that prisoner exchanges have far-reaching consequences that can ultimately backfire and only lead to similar attacks on our civilian population in the future.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.