Defenders of President Obama's release of five Taliban terrorists from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl cite as justification Israel's history of swapping hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for one or two Israel soldiers.
As strong an ally and example of democracy as Israel is, especially in a region sorely lacking in either, Israel is not the United States. Israel has its own interests and purpose for its actions. The world looks to the United States for leadership and in this president and his administration it has found little.
There are important distinctions between Israeli prisoner exchanges and the Bergdahl deal. First, according to many who served with him, Sgt. Bergdahl deliberately walked away from his post. The Israeli soldiers were captured while doing their jobs.
Second, because of the proximity to Gaza and the West Bank, Israel presumably is better able to monitor terrorist movements while we have sent the Gitmo five to Qatar, a nation that reportedly funds Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida affiliates. Next year the released prisoners are likely to return to Afghanistan.
As former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger has written in the publication Israel Hayom: "The Head of Israel's Security Services, Yoram Cohen, stated that 60 percent of released Palestinian terrorists revert to operational terrorism. Most of the 1,150 terrorists, released via the May 21, 1985 'Jibril Exchange’ played a key role during the First Intifada (wave of terrorism). Over 50 percent of the Palestinian terrorists, who were released between the 1993 Oslo Accord and the eruption of the Second Intifada, participated in that wave of Palestinian terrorism."
Ettinger also notes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was against prisoner exchanges before he was for them: "In his 1995 Hebrew edition, 'A Place Under the Sun,' Netanyahu wrote, 'the release of terrorists is a mistake the Israeli government repeats time and time again. ... How can Israel preach to the U.S. and the West ... when Israel surrendered herself so shamefully? I was convinced that 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. ... 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.'"
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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