Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is the Shalit deal worth it?

I'm seeing a number of people in the comments, on Twitter and on groups I follow who are against the Shalit deal if it means that hundreds of murderers are freed in exchange.

The argument has two components.

One is that they are likely to kill Israelis in the future - as we  have seen happen in the past, many times. And families of victims of the murderers are understandably upset at the thought that the monster will go free.

The other argument is that these one-sided swaps encourage terror groups to kidnap more people to facilitate more swaps.

I am sympathetic to these arguments. I've even made these arguments. And from a utilitarian perspective, they make a great deal of sense - one person's life is not worth the lives of many possible future victims.

However, there is a flaw in this logic, one that to me can tip the scales towards supporting the swap.

The fact is that the terror groups are already filled with people who would kill Israelis at every opportunity. The fact is that these groups already have a strategy of kidnapping any Israelis they can. With a few exceptions, most of the prisoners are not the brains behind successful terror attacks - they were just facilitators, people who are interchangeable with hundreds and thousands of other members of Hamas and Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

The reason that there have been relatively few terror attacks over the past few years isn't because of a lack of trying - it is because Israel is better at defending herself. The number of potential terrorists has remained steady at best, and the ones being released would not change that appreciably.

Yes, statistically there is a good chance that there will be future attacks involving some of the  terrorists in this swap. But chances are the attacks would occur anyway with different people. Brainless terror drones  are a dime a dozen in the territories.

The organizers who actually dream up new ways of killing should not be released. But most of the terrorists in the swap, from what I can tell, do not fit that description.

On the other side, a swap shows how much value Israel attaches to its people, and how unified Israelis are in grieving over tragedy and celebrating good news. It proves that one side values human life and the other despises it. We all know this, of course, but it is important to remind the world that there is a right and a wrong, a side that is moral and one whose entire existence is based on immorality. Additionally, the release of Shalit means that there is no longer anything that Hamas can hold over the heads of Israelis.

(None of this calculus applies if Shalit is, God forbid, not alive.)

I hope that this deal is finalized and that we can all celebrate the release of a healthy Gilad Shalit very soon.