Israel should think about putting pressure on terrorist kidnappers, not only negotiating, former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter said, speaking at a conference held by the Institute for National Security Services.
The conference was held on a date that marks seven years since the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was held captive by Hamas for several years, and eventually freed in exchange for over 1,000 imprisoned terrorists.
During previous prisoner deals, Israel has not taken significant steps to create pressure on terrorist groups, Dichter said. “We give in too quickly, we act too weak,” he warned.
“We’re still very far from an understanding of creating pressure, of how far we’re willing to go in terms of taking hits in response,” he said.
He did not suggest specific steps, although he noted that “things like infrastructure… are very, very relevant.”
Israel must realize that there is a difference in the way it perceives prisoner exchange deals, and the way such exchanges are viewed by Hamas and other terrorist groups. “We see the soldiers who were kidnapped as captives, and they see the prisoners – as we call them – as captives…. We see it as ‘prisoners were freed in exchange for captives,’ and for them it’s not that, for them it’s ‘terrorists were freed in exchange for terrorists,’” he explained.
The gap in perception can affect negotiations, he added. “Whoever thought we would be able to get to a point of a ‘one-to-one’ exchange with terrorists… unfortunately, the chasm between our understanding and the terrorists’ understanding is too large,” he said.