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.