Minister Yuli Edelstein spoke to Arutz Sheva on Sunday and explained why he supported the deal to free Gilad Shalit that will see more than 1,000 terrorist prisoners walk free.
Edelstein began by denying that Israel had given in to pressure and agreed to concessions previously rejected as unwise. Israel had always agreed to release approximately 1,000 terrorists, he said; previous disagreements were over the number of “big name” terrorists to be freed and the issue of deportation.
Israel stood its ground on both issues, he declared. The list of terrorists to be freed does not include many of the leaders Hamas had demanded, and in addition, most terrorists will be released to Gaza or sent abroad, rather than allowed to enter Judea, Samaria or Jerusalem.
He downplayed the matter of the 110 terrorists who are expected to be returned to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Those who return to Jerusalem will be elderly terrorists considered to pose a low risk, he explained. Those in Judea and Samaria will be under the watch of the Palestinian Authority, he said, which will hope to see them avoid terrorist activity for practical reasons.
Edelstein disagreed with arguments that the deal will increase terrorists’ motivation to both carry out attacks and kidnap soldiers. Terrorists are already highly motivated to do both, he declared, and any additional motivation will be negligible.
The minister added that he agrees in principle that Israel should stick to “one for one” prisoner swaps, but believes that policy should go into effect the day after Gilad Shalit is freed – not the day before.
Public Joy – Premature and Misplaced
Despite his support for the exchange, Edelstein rejected the joy over the deal reflected in media reports as well as general public joy over the deal. The exchange has not yet taken place, making any joy premature, he warned.
In addition, he said, the deal will see hundreds of murderers freed, and has caused pain to many bereaved families. For that reason excessive joy is inappropriate, Edelstein explained.