If you are a media junkie like me, then you have been following the storm surrounding the prisoner exchange that led to the release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl.   Bergdahl had spent almost five years as a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  His release was facilitated when the American government agreed to free five Taliban members that it held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

I will not engage in any debate over the validity of the exchange itself or whether or not Bergdahl was in fact a deserter.  I’ll leave it up to Fox News and MSNBC to duke that one out between them.

However, what I, like most Israelis, am intrigued by is how the American people are dealing with the concept of engaging in a prisoner swap with what they believe to be a terrorist organization.

The American government has always said that it would never negotiate with terrorists for the release of hostages.  (Except when Ronald Reagan did just that when he sold the Iranians arms in violation of US law to secure the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon.) So has the Israeli government.  But America has also always said that it would never leave a member of its military behind.  Israelis, too, feel such an obligation to their MIAs.

The dilemma is, therefore, what do you do when you need to choose between these two adamant principles?

Now, like Israelis, Americans understand the predicament of having one of your nation’s soldiers held captive by terrorists.

Israel recently released hundreds of terrorists that it held prisoner in order to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit after more than five years of captivity in Gaza.  This was done as part of a negotiation with Hamas; even though, Israel officially declares Hamas a terrorist organization.

There were also two such prisoner releases to Lebanon in order to get Hezbollah, another terrorist organization, to release one living Israeli prisoner and six dead bodies of Israeli soldiers.  The number of terrorists released led to outrage in the Israeli public.

The living hostage, Elhanan Tennenbaum, was captured under nefarious circumstances and was believed to be engaged in illegal activities outside of Israel at the time.

Most recently, under pressure from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel freed hundreds of convicted terrorists, including those who committed murder after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, just to get the Palestinian Authority to agree to attend new peace talks.

No, these people were not let go as part of some sort of a deal or prisoner swap.  PLO chairman Abu Mazen simply refused to even attend a peace conference unless Israel released the prisoners and the American government obliged him by making us do just that.

The Israeli government has clearly maintained some sort of a line of communication with both the Hamas and Hezbollah over the years.  And so has the American government with the Taliban, even when President Bush was still in office.  If you do not believe so, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

So for all of you Americans out there who because of the prisoner swap with the Taliban are feeling demoralized, confused, betrayed or all of the above, let me say on behalf of all Israelis, “we feel your pain!”

About the author


Gil Tanenbaum made aliyah from New York after he completed college. He Has lived in Israel for over 20 years. He has an MBA from Bar Ilan University and is a contributor for various blogs.


  • The time that you can negotiate with a terrorist organization is after you’ve inflicted enough damage on them that they’ll feel it wasn’t worth it. Israel could do the swap with Hamas after Cast Lead; Hamas knows that it’s not worth kidnapping an Israeli if it’ll cost them 700 fighters before they can do the prisoner exchange. Similarly, Hezbollah won’t conduct cross-border kidnapping raids anymore now that they know they’ll lose 400 fighters before their desired transaction takes place.

  • You tell ’em, Max! We should bomb the heck out of the terrorists! We’ll start with Tel Aviv, carpet bombing it until the jewish terrorists’ bones are powder. Then we’ll use napalm on Hebron, so the colonists’ beady eyes melt in their sockets.

    Only then, when Israel’s terrorists have paid the price of the inhuman ways (by dying in huge, hilarious numbers) will the civilized world negotiate with you on the manner of your ckufing off from the Palestinian land you stole.

    (Hint: your nammer of departure will involve gassing, incinerating, and removal in trash bags.)