Matt Lewis

Gilad Shalit release: 1 Israeli for 1,000 Palestinians?

As you may have heard, Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2006, is expected to be released from captivity now that Israel and Hamas have reached a deal to exchange the soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

The lopsided nature of the deal has obviously aroused great debate. From Israel’s standpoint, the decision may be both admirable and insane.

As The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin noted, “It speaks volumes about the value Israel places on a single life, and the familial-like ties that bind a small country, that all of these killers would be released to spare a single innocent soul.”

While the deal speaks well of Israel’s commitment to life, one can imagine the public support and political pressure to make the deal might be partially tied to Israel’s universal military conscription; Every Israeli citizen can probably imagine themselves in Shalit’s shoes.

Still, the notion of exchanging more than 1,000 Palestinians for just one Israeli seems absurd. And it will likely have long-term negative consequences. The Guardian reports, many of the prisoners to be released were the same “militants who were involved in some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks to strike Israel.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg echoed those concerns, writing: “Many of the people released out of Israeli jails, we have to assume, may return to violent anti-Israel activities…” (Goldberg also correctly noted that the deal would seem to incentivize more soldier kidnappings in the future.)

The idea that this was a bad deal seems to be based on historical observation.

“In 1985, there was a similar deal for Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon,” explained journalist Lawrence Wright during a 2010 interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” Wright went on to note that the prisoners Israel gave back at that time “included the very people who came back to Palestine and Gaza and started Hamas.”