On the night of January 1, 1970, a group of Fatah terrorists infiltrated Metula from Lebanon and abducted a night watchman named Shmuel Rosenwasser. The terrorists, together with the abduction victim, withdrew to Kfar Kila which is located about two kilometers west of Metula in Lebanon. This was the first abduction attack perpetrated by a Palestinian terror organization inside Israel.
This terror attack was perpetrated to mark the anniversary of the Fatah’s first terror attack (placing a demolition charge at Israel’s national water conduit). January first was also considered the anniversary of the organization’s establishment. The Fatah claimed responsibility for the abduction several days after the attack and demanded that the State of Israel release 100 terrorists incarcerated in Israel while giving first priority to the terrorist Mahmoud Hijazi
Mahmoud Hijazi was a terrorist who served in the Fatah organization. On January 7, 1965 Hijazi commanded the Fatah’s first terror attack. Hijazi’s terror squad, which included 5 additional terrorists, detonated an explosive device at the water institute in moshav Nechusha situated in the Ela Valley in Israel. Hijazi was wounded and apprehended.
He stood trial at a military court which sentenced him to death. Hijazi appealed this verdict in the military appeals court, which ordered a retrial. During the trial, Hijazi demanded to be recognized as a prisoner of war. The court turned down this request and in May 1966, Hijazi was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The decision to swap him for Rosenwasser was only a one-to-one swap. However, and in retrospect, that was the decision that emboldened Palestinian Arabs to continue to kidnap Israelis in order to bargain for Israel’s release of other terrorists.
The Rosenwasser abduction was followed by a number of others kidnappings and attempted hostage taking, such as a 1974 attack in Beit She’an where terrorists broke into a family home for the purpose of taking them hostage and negotiating a release of terror prisoners. The 1974 Ma’alot massacre started off as a hostage drama as well. Even though Israel did not capitulate in any of the attacks on Israeli soil and usually killed the terrorists, their incentive to mount hostage-taking attacks did not lessen.
The prisoner-exchange train had already left the building in 1970. It is not possible to turn the clock back. Even if the current Israeli government had publicly announced that Shalit was considered dead and that there will be no negotiations, the public pressure in Israel would not have closed the door and Hamas would have waited for a different government to renew its demands.
For these reasons, I do not accept the argument that it is possible to remove the incentive for kidnappings by refusing to negotiate. The terrorists will continue no matter what.
The problem is I never argued we could remove the incentive for kidnappings. Rather, I suggested we could lessen it and I still hold by this argument. Of course, at the end of the day, if an opportunity presents itself, palestinian terror organizations will abduct an Israel and make exhorbitant demands. But this is different than palestinian terror organizations commiting more time and resources to this pursuit because it pays off so well. Elder may believe the train has left the station, but at any time, Israel can change its policy and send a new message.
As it stands, our current policy send the message: Abducting Israelis works.
Another problem I have with Elder’s response is his erroneous assumption my argument is that it’s possible to remove the incentive for kidnappings by refusing to negotiate. Actually, I recommended we reinstate the death penalty for terrorists, since there will always be some incentive to abduct Israelis while there are palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.
Researchers Justus Reid Weiner and Diane Morrison point out the risk factor of Israel’s current policy of imprisoning terrorists:
Because Israel eschews the death penalty, Israel keeps terrorists alive in Israeli custody and thereby inadvertently creates a “bait” situation where terrorist groups attempt to free their men by ransoming newly-kidnapped Israelis.
Here, Elder actually agrees with me.
Reinstating the death penalty for terror attacks, which would remove any terrorists available for exchanges, may be unlikely to happen but it would be more effective – and humane.
At the end of the day, Elder and I may have to agree to disagree but we both want the same thing: Gilad Shalit home and the murderers of our men, women and children no longer in the land of the living.