Daily Israel Report

Did Netanyahu Put Polls Ahead of Security?

Sources close to the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu say he was against the Shalit deal. If so, why did he go through with it?
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/21/2011, 2:40 PM

 PM Binyamin Netanyahu, 11.9.11
PM Binyamin Netanyahu, 11.9.11
Flash 90

In 1995, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in his book "A Place in the Sun," that the release of terrorists is "a mistake the Israeli government repeats time and time again."

"From the beginning," he wrote, "I saw the Jibril deal [an earlier disproportionate swap that led to recidivist terror, ed.] a fatal blow to Israel's efforts to form an international front against terrorism. How can Israel preach to the United States and the West they must adopt a policy of non-surrender to terror, when Israel surrendered herself so shamefully?

“I was convinced the release of a thousand terrorists would necessarily lead to a terrible escalation of violence, because these terrorists will be accepted as heroes, as an example to be imitated by young Palestinians. ... [that violence] was not long in coming.

"It is clear now that the release of a thousand terrorists was one of the factors that provided a pool of fermenting violence and its leaders ignited the fire of the intifada," Netanyahu wrote.

What, then, caused the Prime Minister to make such a startling reversal and release 1,027 security prisoners - some 450 of whom were incarcerated for terrorism related activities - in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

A senior diplomatic source told Arutz Sheva that Netanyahu had previously expressed strong opposition to the Shalit deal saying, "I will not sign off on mass murder."

According to Netanyahu's advisors, the intense pressure exerted on the Prime Minister by the media to recover Shalit at any cost led to the 180-degree decision to favor polls over security.

Netanyahu's capitulation to the media was buttressed by the support of three critical newly appointed security chiefs. The Mossad's Tamir Fredo, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, and IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz all reportedly told Netanyahu, "we'll deal with the price." Those who previously held those positions were against the deal.

The GSS approval for the Shalit deal came despite the figure presented by Netanyahu that there are between 8 and 12 attempted kidnappings of soldiers and civilians aimed at forcing prisoner exchanges each year.

Many prisoners released this week, despite signing pledges not to return to terrorism, have already announced they will seek to leverage the release of more terrorists by staging more attacks and kidnappings.

A mere 28 of those released this week managed to bring about the deaths of 599 Israelis as masterminds who orchestrated terrorist attacks.

Many bereaved relatives of those killed by those released this week feel deeply betrayed by what they too see as capitulation to the media and the injustice of freeing murderers. They said they found it difficult to celebrate Gilad Shalit's return home.

"Did Netanyahu try to free Shalit by other means? Why not create pressure by restricting visits to jailed terrorists by their families? Why not stop giving them the 'five-star hotel' they have in Israeli jails?" Asked Ron Kerman, the father of Kerman Tal, one of those murdered in the Haifa bus bombing at 2003.

Kerman's question has more than an emotional basis. Hamas officials admitted they backed off many demands due to pressure over 'worsening' conditions for terrorists in Israeli prisons, which were still well above what human rights treaties require.

In the aftermath of the deal analysts have said providing only what the law requires for terrorists in prison could have resulted in better terms.

Netanyahu claims he did not release those who were "symbolic of terrorism", leaders who would inspire more terror.

But, Marwan Barghouti's continued incarceration aside,  among those released are the masterminds of the massacres at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium, Moment, Torque, Sbarro restaurants and the Hebrew University bombing, as well as the bloody-handed Amne Muna, who kiled the boy Ofir Nahum after enticing him to meet her through an internet chat, and the perpetrators of the grotesque, bloody Ramallah lynching of two soldiers who made a wrong turn.

Now, with Netanyahu making what he himself would agree is a time-honored Israeli mistake, all eyes fall to the Shamgar Commission, which must make public its recommendations for dealing with other abductions Israel might face in coming months. It was created after Shalit's abduction and the start of attempts to achieve his return and therefore waited to publicized its decisions.

It remains unclear how they, and the security chiefs who themselves forecasted more terrorism and kidnappings, will deal with "the price" that Netanyahu decided, against his own writings, to pay.