The painful debate about Israel’s decision to trade 1,000 imprisoned Palestinian terrorists for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit continues this week with the families of terror victims attempting to sue the government to prevent the swap. Though the vast majority of Israelis support the trade and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s willingness to pay the ransom for Shalit, the impending release of so many murderers is nothing to celebrate. That is, unless you are a Palestinian.
Those being freed include the founders of Hamas’s armed wing and militants who kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers and civilians. A mastermind of the 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria who killed 15 will walk out of prison, as will a woman who used the Internet to lure a lovesick Israeli teenager to a Palestinian city and had him murdered.
Most of the prisoners were serving life sentences, some for being involved in attacks like the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people and a suicide bombing a year later of a Netanya hotel in which 29 died.
Apologists for the Palestinians will argue those in Israeli jails were resisting the “occupation” of the country, though few will own up to the fact that as far as the prisoners are concerned, the territory of pre-June 1967 Israel is just as “occupied” as the West Bank. But even if you think the Palestinian cause is just, how can anyone justify the slaughter of innocents such as at the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem? Even if you think Israel should withdraw back to the 1967 lines, how can any civilized person condone the Palestinian decision to treat those who committed such atrocities as heroes?
What is on trial this week is not the moral calculus by which Netanyahu decided that saving the life of one Jewish soldier was worth the subversion of justice–freeing murderers as ransom. What ought to be discussed is the upside-down ethos of Palestinian political culture in which the spilling of Jewish blood grants the killer not only absolution but also heroic status.
The world turned away in horror a decade ago when a photograph captured the moment when one of the ringleaders of a Palestinian lynch mob showed his bloodstained hands to a cheering crowd after he had helped murder an Israeli. Yet today, the Palestinian political elite, including many whom our government deems “moderates,” will not only facilitate the release of this miscreant but treat him like a conquering hero.
The prisoner swap has unfortunately reminded us of the depths of degradation to which the Palestinian political culture sank during the second intifada, as mass slaughter became not merely a tool of war but the touchstone of a people’s identity. We would have hoped the passage of years and the realization of the cost in Palestinian suffering that this terror war incurred would have sobered them up. It would be one thing if these murderers were taken back in an atmosphere that showed some recognition their crimes were nothing to emulate. But instead, the release is proving to be yet another indication nothing has changed.
Those, like the Obama administration, who repeat tired clichés about the need for Israel to take risks for peace, never seem to own up to the costs of those risks. The second intifada and the 1,000 Jewish lives lost to terrorists were the price of earlier risks previous Israeli governments took in the hope of securing peace. The celebration that will convulse Palestinian society tomorrow is sad proof that similar risks taken today will also be paid for in blood.
Rather than ask why Israel is willing to trade so many terrorists for one soldier, the world should be asking why the Palestinians are cheering the release of sociopaths.