Thursday, July 20, 2006

To swap or not to swap?

The virtual cafe of opinion exchange that is the online English version of Ha'aretz has opened up discussion on the legitimacy of Israel's long-standing tradition of prisoner exchange. Is a prisoner-for-hostage swap the right move this time? I thought I would open it up here at kishkushim, as well. For some brief but relevant historical context, read Ha'aretz's excellent accompanying editorial, which, in my opinion, provides the best justification for Israel's use of force I've heard so far. They point out that the major difference between the most recent kidnappings of Israelis is that the kidnappers are no longer state or even quasi-state (e.g. PLO) actors, but rather extemist sects with paramilitary forces who glorify the use of terror. And states don't usually like to negotiate with terrorists.

Operating under the widely held belief that the IDF will be unable to destroy Hizbollah's infrastructure from the air alone, I think it's safe to assume that finishing the job (i.e., entering South Lebanon by ground) would result in many Israeli casualties. Is the risk of losing troops AND failing to eliminate Hizbollah (which will probably regenerate no matter what) worth the risk of losing the three young men - for whom Israel started bombing in the first place - to an organization who will refuse to release them as long as the bombs keep falling?


Anonymous said...

If you want to say that it's ok to swap prisoners this time then you are logically saying that prisoner's should never be taken.

Otherwise, any time Israel takes terrorists or other criminals as prisoner, all Hamas has to do is kidnap one Israeli prisoner and, on the basis of your current justification, you should do another prisoner swap. That should be true anytime Hamas/Fatah/Hizbullah & company want their terrorists released.

I do not see that "situational ethics" work. They certainly never encourage good behavior on the part of evil-doers.

It is equivalent to saying that paying ransom to kidnappers does not encourage further kidnapping.

Yaakova said...

I totally agree with the 'anonymous' comment above. Couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous said...

"Is the risk of losing troops AND failing to eliminate Hizbollah (which will probably regenerate no matter what) worth the risk of losing the three young men"

Noah, That question is the toughest to answer. I am inclined to say yes. But because it is such a painful question, you cannot but give pause before answering.

Monsieur Avital said...

Ha maharam of rottembourg died in prison, because he had been captured by the non-jew local chief in order to take money in exchange of his freedom, and although pidion chevouyim is a great mitzvah he told his community who already had gathered the ransom not to pay, because if they did so, anytime the non-jew would like to get the jew's money they would take hostages.
having said that, and pointed out that no exchange should be an option, even though each and every jew is an 'olam male, the question you rise about tracking these rats down in their holes hence risking more lifes is right, but in my opinion, if the IDF hunt them down by ground, it will be to slain them bsd, and make an example for any who thinks about hurting us...