‘It was a crime’: Former Israeli PM slams Shalit deal that freed 1,000-plus Palestinian prisoners

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was interviewed in a news program about Hamas.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert called the 2011 deal in which Israel allowed over a thousand security prisoners to go free in exchange for an Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas a “crime,” in a Channel 11 expose on the terrorist organization Wednesday.

“The issue of the prisoner exchange was a crime,” Olmert said on camera. “I have no other word for it. It truly caused me pain to see it.

“Let there be no misunderstanding, I really wanted to free Gilad Shalit. But the endurance of a nation is measured precisely in those moments when the national interest stands against this tremendous desire of yours to bring your warrior home. I saw it as a surrender to considerations that had nothing to do with the national interest.”

Olmert, who served as prime minister from 2006-2009, told an interviewer on Channel 12 news in March 2018 that he “would never have made such a deal” if he had had the chance.

In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved the release of 1,027 Palestinian and Arab Israeli terrorists in order to get back Gilad Shalit, a tankist who had been captured by Hamas five years earlier during a cross-border raid.

Among them were 280 who had been sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating attacks against Israelis, killing 569 and wounding hundreds more.

It was the largest prisoner exchange in Israeli history, and the most Israel has ever paid for a single soldier. It was also a very controversial move, with many decrying it as a victory for terrorism and a danger to Israel’s deterrence and security.

The future leader of Hamas, Yihye Sinwar, was one of those freed, as were dozens of others who have since been rearrested for being involved in terrorist attacks.

The program moderators said that the prisoner exchange was directly responsible for exacerbating the danger Hamas posed to Israel. Those terrorists whom Israel would not allow back into territory it controls were exiled to Turkey, they said.

There, they established Hamas’ “construction division,” whose scientists aimed to acquire and develop advanced, precision weaponry that could tip the balance of power in its favor against the Jewish state.