With the scars of the 2011 Shalit Deal still fresh, we now discover Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, learned nothing from that fiasco.
Six years, almost to the day, after he freed 1,027 convicted terrorists, Netanyahu announced the appointment of Yaron Blum as negotiations coordinator with Hamas – a man who as “a member of the small negotiations team” was instrumental in that earlier deal with the devil.
This time around, Blum’s goal will be the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 along with two mentally ill hostages who crossed the border into Gaza, in exchange for another mass release of Palestinian terrorists.
As Blum put it (my translation of the Hebrew source):
In my opinion, since this is a national mission, we are obliged to do everything to bring the boys home so I accepted the position with excitement.”
He was echoing Netanyahu who said upon publicizing the appointment:
“We understand our moral and humanitarian debt to do everything possible to bring them back”
adding that he was sure Blum would make a “very important contribution to this sacred mission.”
Once again, no red lines. Just buckle to Hamas’ demands.
At that press conference, Netanyahu noted that he had called the families of the Israelis being held by Hamas in Gaza prior to making the appointment and stressed to them his commitment to returning them to Israel. This is reminiscent of Netanyahu and his wife’s two hostings of the Shalit parents prior to the deal’s signing. I don’t know if he has or hasn’t hosted any families whose loved ones had been killed by the prisoners he released. I do know that at the time he falsely asserted to the press – and his staff echoed this to me personally – that he had written to all of them to explain and to comfort. Neither my husband nor I nor any one of the dozens of terror victim families whom we asked has ever received such a Netanyahu letter.
This chilling deja vu strikes while many of us still suffer from the carnage and injustice that Blum’s previous government assignment wrought. (See for instance “03-Oct-17: Released in Shalit Deal, a pious Pal Arab murderer is going back (too late) to life in an Israeli prison“)
A former senior official in the Shin Bet, he has served in recent years as a senior executive in the private sector. He seems to re-surface whenever Netanyahu feels his back against the wall and craves an image boost.
In 2011, prior to the Shalit Deal, it was the social protests that prompted that craving. We learned this from David Meidan, Netanyahu’s special envoy to negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit [“Israeli Negotiator: Social Protest Affected Netanyahu’s Decision on Shalit Deal“, Haaretz, July 24, 2012]. In a closed lecture entitled “Secrets Behind the Shalit Deal” that he gave at Tel Aviv University in July 2012 [reported in “New Info on Shalit Deal Shows, Yet Again, That in the Mideast, Nothing Is as It Appears“, Haaretz, July 24, 2012], Meidan admitted that the decision to close the deal was influenced by political considerations.
Netanyahu had been insisting that his approval of the swap was based solely on security and diplomacy factors. Anyone who accused him of harboring other considerations incurred Netanyahu’s anger or even the threat of a libel suit. One exception was his concession to the German newspaper, Bild, that his wife Sara had pressured him to proceed with the mass prisoner release.
(Anybody recall which official position Mrs Netanyahu held at the time??)
Now, of course, it is the threat of indictment that weighs on the beleaguered prime minister. What a godsend it would be for him to win kudos with the return of those MIA’s and captives.
The Israeli penchant for releasing prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldiers and civilians has always been highly controversial. Intelligence sources (quoted in “‘PM ordered rearrests of dozens of prisoners freed in Shalit deal’“, Times of Israel, June 24, 2014) estimate that 60% of those who have been freed in these lopsided deals over the decades have subsequently been imprisoned again for terrorism.
The Shalit releasees are no exception. In April 2014, a few hours before the Passover Seder, Baruch Mizrachi was shot dead in a roadside attack near Hebron. The 48-year-old Israel Police superintendent was murdered by Ziad Awwad, a Hamas operative released in the prisoner swap. Mizrachi was the sixth Israeli to be killed in attacks carried out or planned by Shalit Deal releases. Estimates of how many Shalit releasees are now back in Israeli jails for having engaged in terrorist activities range from the seventies to 120 or more.
Many pundits who were silent prior to that release of 1,027 terrorists minced no words in condemning it after the fact. Here is what the former Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit wrote the day after the Shalit Deal was executed:
A first morning after the insanity. A first morning after the hysteria. A first morning after the loss of judgment and the loss of our senses. After 1,941 days and 1,941 nights dominated by kitsch, this morning we are waking up to reality. Opening our eyes and rubbing them to see who we are and what has happened to us. This morning, when Gilad Shalit wakes up in his bed, we can already tell the truth: We went crazy. During the past 64 months, we simply went crazy. Because of the profound and justified guilt that we all felt for one boy and one family, we stopped acting in a reasonable manner. Because of the twisted awareness that we suffered in the era of Channel 2, we worked ourselves up into an emotional frenzy. We reached the point where we are willing to sacrifice hundreds whose names and faces we are not familiar with, in exchange for the one whose name and face have become a part of our lives. We reached the point where we conduct our national affairs like children – without wisdom, without morality and without mature responsibility… [“In wake of Shalit Deal, Israel must return to sanity“, Haaretz, October 19, 2011]
Has the Shalit Deal taught us nothing? Are we doomed to awake to another bleak “morning after”? Will we again hand over our lives to Netanyahu to use as political currency?
We could direct Netanyahu to the following excerpt from “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists” published after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S:
Freeze financial assets in the West of terrorist regimes and organizations; revise legislation, subject to periodic renewal, to enable better surveillance against organizations inciting violence; keep convicted terrorists behind bars; refuse to negotiate with terrorists; train special forces to fight terror; and, not least important, impose sanctions on suppliers of nuclear technology to terrorist states.
Netanyahu himself wrote that book. If he meant what he said there, he will stop rewarding Hamas for holding Israeli hostages and start punishing them instead.