In 1995, a decade after Israel released 1,150 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in return for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon, a new book by a promising Israeli politician reflected unfavorably on the deal and its aftermath. “Today,” the politician wrote, “it’s obvious that releasing these terrorists contributed to creating a cadre of inciters and leaders, men who lit the fuse of Palestinian violence.” The politician was, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he went on to quote a letter he’d written to Yitzhak Shamir, then the leader of Likkud, chiding him for supporting the prisoner swap. “The deal may have saved a few Israeli lives,” Netanyahu had written to Shamir, “but it’s clear to me that the price we’ll eventually pay is that the deal will sentence many others to death. A nation must act first and foremost in the interest of the majority, and I see no way of justifying the deal as having served the majority in any way.” Now, Netanyahu is set to preside over a deal that will release 980 Palestinian combatants in return for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. And his 24-year-old letter to Shamir is giving Netanyahu’s opponents, including some in his own party, an excellent weapon with which to attack his decision. It’s prompting commentators to wonder whether Netanyahu is slated to make the same move as Ariel Sharon and leave Likkud to found his own party.
Are Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak Conspiring a New Political Big Bang? [Haaretz, in Hebrew]