I was appalled by the deal the Israeli government cut with Hezbollah on Jan. 26, 2004, and expressed this in my column last week on the subject. I offered five reasons against this step, including the prediction that "Some or many of those 429 will again engage in terrorism against Israel." Well, it did not take long for that prediction to be confirmed. "Freed terrorist vows he'll fulfil suicide mission" reads today's Sunday Times (London) headline.
It tells of Steven Smyrek, 32, a German (and British-educated) would-be terrorist arrested on arrival in Israel in 1997 before he could carry out his suicide mission. Convicted and sentenced to 10-years he jail, he expressed no remorse in court and rejected an offer to serve his time in Germany, preferring to stay among "his people" in Israel's toughest prison. Smyrek reportedly now speaks fluent Arabic and according to the Times, "After living with Palestinian and Lebanese convicts for more than six years, his fundamentalist resolve to die for the cause has hardened."
Smyrek signed a document renouncing violence before he left Israel, but also before leaving Israel announced in an interview on German television interview that
It's an honour to die for Islam and for Allah. When the order comes you have to carry it out and there's no time to ask if there is a God or not, or to think what will happen after you're dead, without feeling you simply have to lay down your life as Allah decreed.
And to think there are now another 428 such extremists on the loose. What were the Israelis thinking when they made this trade? What have they brought on themselves and the rest of us? (February 8, 2004)
Apr. 27, 2004 update: On his meeting with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Karim Abdul Obeid, the most prominent of the Hezbollah prisoners swapped in January 2004, had this to say about that exchange: "The release of Lebanese prisoners from Zionist jails is an embarrassing defeat for Israel." How right he is. How strange that so many Israelis cannot see this plain fact.
Sep. 30, 2004 update: I trace a similar pattern in another context at "Gitmo Recidivists."
Feb. 21, 2005 update: The Jerusalem Post reports today that another prisoner released in January 2004 has resorted to violence against Israel. Specifically, he was one of the two terrorists shot and killed by Israeli soldiers Feb. 15 while attempting a night-time attack on Har Bracha. Atsem Mansour, 29, a Fatah Tanzim member from the Balata refugee camp, had been imprisoned in Israel from October 2001 to January 2004 for involvement in terrorism.
The news item also contains an extraordindary statistic from an earlier release of prisoners: "The security establishment's most current statistics relate to the May 1985 'Jibril deal' in which more than 1,000 prisoners were released: Of the 238 of them released to the West Bank and Gaza, 48 percent, or 114, resumed their terrorist activities."
Sep. 8, 2006 update: A report issued yesterday by the Almagor Terror Victims Association shows that (in the words of an Arutz Sheva report) "at least 14 of the major terrorist attacks in recent years were carried out by terrorists released from prison in the context of various 'good will gestures' and Israeli prisoner deals." These attacks led to the deaths of 123 Israelis and a much larger number of injured and disabled. The report provides names and specifics. More broadly:
Between the years 1993-1999, in the context of "confidence building measures" and prisoner deals, Israel released 6,912 terrorists. 854 of them (14%) were arrested subsequently for murder, attempted or otherwise. There are no statistics available for those who returned to non-fatal terrorist activities, instruction or logistical support.
Dec. 4, 2007 update: For another pattern, see my weblog entry today on "Recidivist Palestinian Terrorists."