Why Israel Made the Deal

The full article was published in the Ottawa Citizen, October 20, 2011.

In 1991, the Italian parliament passed a law prohibiting anybody not only from paying ransom but also from even negotiating with kidnappers. Colombia later followed suit. The legislation derived from the entirely logical argument that if fewer people paid ransom there would be fewer kidnappings.

There are good reasons for thinking that this is so. Somali pirates, for instance, hijack ships for money; if nobody paid ransom, they would stop doing it. Not only do the profits from crime encourage crime, they are also reinvested in crime. According to one report, al-Qaeda members who captured Robert Fowler and Louis Guay may have used part of the ransom supposedly paid to free them to offer bounties to those who captured future victims. With this in mind, Israelis must be asking themselves this week whether freeing 1,000 Palestinians in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is such a good idea….


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