Israel Security Agency chief Yoram Cohen reluctantly told reporters the terms approved by the cabinet for the release of Gilad Shalit "is the best deal possible."
Under the first stage of the agreement - expected to take place next week - Israel will release 450 terrorists in exchange for the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner by the Hamas terror organization for some six years.
"If there had been a better deal or viable military operation we would have chosen it," Cohen told reporters during a briefing at Shin Bet headquarters.
"I think this is a tough and difficult deal but it is the best deal for Israel from a security perspective. It is not simple to release 280 murderers. Hamas will be strengthened by this and Fatah will likely be weakened and this might even increase motivation for more attacks and kidnappings," he added.
Ninety-six terrorists will be released to Judea and Samaria, 14 to Jerusalem, and 294 to Gaza. Another 40 will be deported overseas. Six Israeli Arabs are also being released as part of the deal.
"I think that we will be able to deal with the threat and potential dangers," Cohen said "We cannot promise that they will not produce terror. Statistics show that 60 percent of those released in prisoner swaps return to activity in their terrorist organizations and that 15 to 20 percent return to Israeli prisons."
By the end of the second stage of the deal, to be completed by November, Israel will have released a total 1,027 terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit, whose physical and psychological condition remains unknown.