Nobel Prize laureate: Hamas prisoner exchange should be one-for-one

Prof. Robert Aumann says his game theory proves that giving up more just encourages more terrorism and kidnappings.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israeli-American Nobel laureate Prof. Robert Aumann came out firmly last Thursday against giving up more than four prisoners to Hamas as Israel negotiates indirectly with the terror organization for the release of two soldiers’ bodies and two live civilians.

“Israel needs to change the paradigm, present a new price list,” he said in a Makor Rishon article. “Cold, intellectual, uncompromising. There is no more one to 1,000 ratio. One living terrorist, in exchange for one living prisoner. The body of a terrorist in exchange for the body of an Israeli soldier.”

Hamas captured the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Two mentally ill civilians, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, crossed into the Gaza Strip on their own in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and it is assumed that they are still alive in Hamas hands.

There can be no more “Gilad Shalit deals,” in which Hamas returned one live soldier in 2011 for 1,027 terrorists, he wrote, especially since “we’re still paying the price for him, in blood.”

Last May, in response to a freedom-of-information request by the Betzalmo organization, the IDF listed 10 murders committed by those freed in the deal, with about 100 being in jail again for re-engaging in terrorism.

Citing the game theory for which he won the 2005 prize in Economic Sciences, Aumann wrote, “Tomorrow and the next day give us an incentive for current behavior. Based on past data, we know what tomorrow and the next day will look like after a terrorist-release deal: The Israelis who will be murdered by those liberated terrorists, the headwind for terrorist organizations and our enemies around us to kidnap soldiers and civilians. All of these should already give our leaders a very significant incentive: to refuse such a deal overwhelmingly.”

“If you give the enemy a positive incentive to do something – he’ll do it, and will try with all his might to kill and kidnap,” he wrote.

Aumann added that ancient Jewish law cited the same principles, quoting from the Talmud that it is forbidden to redeem prisoners “for more than their value, because of the good order of the world, so that enemies will not run to capture more people [for ransom].”

Hamas is demanding the return of the dozens of prisoners who were rearrested after the Shalit deal. They also want the release of a few hundred female, older and sick Palestinian prisoners.

Institute for National Security Studies researchers Yohanan Tzoreff and Kobi Michael wrote in a paper three weeks ago that the relatively “low” price Hamas is asking is linked to the coronavirus crisis.

The terror organization that holds the Gaza Strip in its iron grip “is fully aware of its total dependence on Israeli assistance, which it believes would be the only source for the help required in the event of a widespread outbreak,” they wrote.

The leaders also want to “prove its governance capacity, and also demonstrate that it is a valid alternative to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.”

The Goldin family has reacted to the news of indirect negotiations by saying, “To miss the opportunity now would be a national irresponsibility.”

In contrast, Almagor Terror Victims Association head Dr. Aryeh Bachrach called such a deal a “surrender to terror” and said that the state should instead “use the many forms of leverage in its hands against” Hamas.

Almagor activist Ron Kehrmann wrote a letter last week to Germany’s ambassador to Israel denouncing that country’s involvement in the negotiations. Germany was also involved in facilitating the Shalit deal.