An Israeli soldier was kidnapped by Palestinians five years ago and was kept in captivity until this week, when Palestinian terrorists exchanged him for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody.
It had been a horrifying five years for Israel, even though it is sadly accustomed to terrorist attacks. Israelis feared that the abducted soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Gilad Schalit, was being tortured. There were times when they wondered whether he was alive at all. So we cannot fault Israel for its desire to secure his release, and we understand the nation's celebration and relief when he was finally freed.
But we fear that Israel ultimately will pay a high price for the exchange it made with the Palestinian Hamas terrorists. Of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners whom Israel plans to free in exchange for Schalit, almost 300 are serving life terms for murder. And many of those committed murder as part of a continuing terrorism campaign against Israel.
Once they are freed, there is strong reason to believe they will return to terrorism. And even as Schalit was being returned to Israel, masses of Palestinians were calling for the kidnapping of more Israelis to be used as bargaining chips to have more terrorists set free.
Just as appalling, before he was allowed to return to his family, Schalit was pressured in an Egyptian TV interview to call on Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners. Armed, masked terrorists were nearby at the time, and there is little reason to believe the interview was fully consensual on Schalit's part. In fact, he was malnourished after his long captivity and appeared to be struggling to talk or even to breathe. The interviewer asked him why he hadn't given more interviews while he was held hostage -- even though his captors had refused to allow him visitors.
Israel places a high value on human life, which is why it agreed to the difficult exchange of hundreds of duly convicted Palestinian prisoners for one innocent Israeli soldier.
But the freed terrorists almost certainly will commit further terrorist acts in the future.
Such is the dilemma that Israel faces as it deals with its hostile neighbors.