Dotan Rousso

The Weighty Dilemma Surrounding the Release of Security Prisoners

The proposal to release all security prisoners in exchange for the liberation of the 137 Israeli captives held by Hamas has both captivated and unsettled the Israeli public.

Reports indicate that there are approximately 7,000 security prisoners, including 539 with “blood on their hands,” along with a thousand administrative detainees, 190 minor detainees, and 53 female detainees.

The arguments advocating for such a deal predominantly revolve around three key points. Firstly, Israel holds a supreme moral obligation to release its citizens. Secondly, releasing security prisoners now doesn’t eliminate the possibility of apprehending them again in the future. Thirdly, public sentiment recoils at the notion that numerous Israelis, including babies and the elderly, are at the mercy of sadistic murderers, while Israel possesses the means to bring them home.

It is self-evident that the heart of every Israeli empathizes with our captives, considering the unimaginable suffering they and their families endure. Yet, alongside the fervent desire to secure their release and the emotional inclination to engage in a deal at any cost, we must also be cognizant of the full spectrum of considerations, both supporting and opposing such an agreement.

Here is a compilation of weighty considerations elucidating why such a deal may not be a straightforward choice:

Releasing 539 prisoners with blood on their hands essentially translates to freeing abhorrent murderers, including some mass murderers.

The inevitable assumption is that at least some of the released security prisoners will return and carry out terror attacks in the future. In other words, their release may lead to the deaths of many more.

Additionally, such a release will significantly undermine the deterrence of terrorists. This deal may serve as an incentive for many perpetrators to carry out future terror attacks, assuming they will be released in the next deal.

One should also recognize that since the war began, many soldiers paid with their lives. At least some of them did so under the belief that fully achieving the goals of the war justifies their ultimate sacrifice: the release of captives, along with neutralizing Hamas and creating a different and sustainable reality for the residents of the south. A deal as mentioned might be interpreted by some who sacrificed dearly as failing to fulfill our duty to the fallen.

The message received by Israeli enemies on all fronts is likely to be that there is no price that Israel will not pay for its captives. Consequently, in the future, the price for the release of captives might include unrelated concessions beyond the release of prisoners, such as strategic compromises.

Finally, It must be acknowledged that releasing all prisoners would provide Hamas with the greatest achievement it could have hoped for. Undoubtedly, their prestige would soar, significantly increasing support for their murderous ideology.

This list does not aim to definitively determine the most correct and moral decision. It involves choosing between evils. Nevertheless, as we engage in a discussion on this topic, our opinions must encompass the full implications of our stance, whatever it may be.

About the Author
Dotan Rousso, Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. He currently lives in Alberta and teaches Philosophy at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).