OpinionIsrael at War

Trading terrorists for hostages

Israelis agreed to a bad deal for a good reason.

A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.
A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.
Clifford D. May
Clifford D. May is the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), as well as a columnist for “The Washington Times.”

“Swaps of captives resume after brief protest by Hamas,” read the top headline in The Washington Post on Sunday.

But the “captives” set free by Israel had all been arrested or already convicted of such crimes as stabbing, shooting and attempted suicide bombing, while the “captives” released by Hamas are all innocent women and children dragged from their homes in flagrant violation of international law.

In what legal or moral universe is there any equivalence between the two?

The Israelis are releasing three terrorists for every civilian hostage returned. Other components of the deal include Israelis allowing hundreds of truckloads of fuel and other supplies into Gaza, knowing full well that Hamas will steal as much as possible from the Palestinian civilians for whom the aid is intended.

That’s what Hamas’s “protest” was about. The terrorist group wanted aid supplied to areas the Israelis have declared military zones. The delay ended when the Israelis made clear they would be pushed no further.

So long as at least 10 hostages per day are released, the Israeli Defense Forces is “pausing” military operations against Hamas commanders and fighters, most believed to be sheltering in a network of multi-billion-dollars tunnels.

Will this deal result in more Israeli soldiers being killed? Almost certainly. But Israeli soldiers believe it is their duty to save civilians.

Hamas’s leaders, by contrast, believe it is the duty of civilians to save them. And Hamas leaders know that dead Gazans produce propaganda wins.

“Hamas has spotted something about the modern world that has meant that instead of demonstrations against their atrocities and hostage-taking, the largest demonstrations globally have taken place against the victim, Israel,” writes the award-winning historian Andrew Roberts in a provocative essay titled, “What Makes Hamas Worse Than the Nazis.”

More than a few European leaders personify this “modern world.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in a statement that never mentions Hamas, called the release of Emily Hand, a nine-year-old Irish-Israeli, “a day of enormous joy and relief. …An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned.”

Lost and found? Is he under the impression Emily wandered away from a Girl Scout troop and was taken in by a kindly shepherd?

At the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, as supplies were moving through, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced: “If the European Union does not recognize the independent State of Palestine, Spain will make its own decision.”

If he doesn’t recognize that would be rewarding Hamas for its atrocities, he’s what the Soviets would have called a “useful idiot.”

Also at Rafah, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo instructed: “The only way out of this conflict is dialogue.” What does he imagine that dialogue would accomplish? Would Hamas agree to send death squads into Israel only on specified Jewish holidays—perhaps with “humanitarian ceasefires” in between?

Would Hamas demand that Israelis increase the amount of electricity they provide Gazans since Hamas, focused on beheading Jewish babies, hasn’t time to worry about such mundane matters?

It’s worth recalling that an earlier “dialogue” led to the current war. In 1988, an Israeli court sentenced Yahya Sinwar to four life sentences for a slew of murders of both Israelis and Palestinians. In 2011, he was released from prison, one of more than a 1,000 Palestinians freed in exchange for a single captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Sinwar’s career took off after that. In 2017 he became Hamas’s top dog in Gaza. He’s believed to be one of the masterminds behind the Oct. 7 attack.

The deal now in play was facilitated by Qatar, a small Persian Gulf monarchy awash in natural gas. Qatar spends lavishly on public relations and lobbying in Washington, funds a list of American universities and owns Al Jazeera, the influential news-and-propaganda network.

An article in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend called Qatar “Washington’s preferred interlocutor with extremist groups and pariah states,” a role it has earned by “resolving regional disputes while winning the trust and gratitude of the U.S. and other Western governments.”

A few facts that get short shrift in this piece: Qatar has long funded Hamas and hosted Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal and other Hamas leaders, who live high on the hog (if you’ll excuse the expression) in Doha, the Qatari capital.

One might have expected the Qatari royals to tell their guests: “It’s your responsibility to ensure that the billions of dollars we’re investing in Gaza are not turned into rubble.” Apparently, they did not.

Also: Last year, President Biden designated Qatar a major non-NATO ally” which, according to the State Department, serves as “a powerful symbol of the close relationship the United States shares” with the Gulf state.

Shouldn’t Qatar’s rulers have then instructed Hamas’s leaders to at least refrain from killing and kidnapping Americans—citizens of a nation with whom they were now officially allied? Apparently, they did not.

Among the questions this raises: What did Qatar’s rulers know about Hamas’s planning for the 10/7 massacre, and when did they know it?

Does the CIA have any clues? Will Congress attempt to find out? Are the elite media even curious?

Israelis agreed to a bad deal for a good reason: to save the lives of as many hostages—especially children—as they can.

When Hamas runs out of human cards to play—or just stops trickling them out—Israelis will come under intense pressure to extend the “humanitarian ceasefire,” a euphemism for letting Hamas survive to slaughter another day.

If Israelis are thinking strategically, they’ll resist that pressure, understanding now more vividly than ever how much of the “modern world” neither opposes Hamas’s openly and explicitly genocidal ambitions nor even believes that Jewish lives matter.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates