The Release of Gilad Shalit

Today is for happiness, and for prayers that Gilad Shalit is undamaged by what British Prime Minister Cameron called his "cruel captivity" (in five years he was denied contact even with the Red Cross), as well as prayers that the Palestinian prisoners released as part of the swap turn away from violence and toward non-violent protest (as Michael Weiss notes, some of those being released are covered in the blood of innocents). Tomorrow comes the hard questions (the sort raised by Alon Pinkas). And tomorrow is for sadness, as well: The families of those innocent people murdered by Hamas and other terror groups must live with the knowledge that the killers of their loved ones are free.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is gambling here: If one of the terrorists released in this swap returns to his (or her, in certain cases) old ways, there will be hell to pay. On the other hand, I heard a convincing argument last night (in a sukkah, of course) that Israel's fight against terrorism is strengthened by the swap: Israeli soldiers will be able to fight knowing that their leaders will do anything it takes to save their lives, should they fall prisoner. Israel's is a conscript army -- parents have no choice but to send their children to be soldiers. But they send their children now knowing that their country stands with them.

Bradley Burston puts it best, as he often does:

Israelis know that the exchange will bolster the recently flagging popularity of Hamas, in particular its more militant figures. It could seriously undermine Palestinian moderates, foster a return of large-scale terrorism, and deal a telling blow to the Palestinian Authority, in the process eroding the security of Israelis on both sides of the Green Line.
The deal to bring Gilad Shalit back to his family is painful to Israelis bereaved by terror. It is, by any measure, chillingly dangerous.

And it was the right thing to do.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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