When Israeli officials confirmed they had reached a deal with Hamas that would result in the freeing of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit, the reaction in the country was one of joy mixed with a heavy dose of apprehension. Israel had no good choices left when it agreed to make the lop-sided trade, which involved the release of more than a 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of them serving sentences for involvement in horrific terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. And yet, the widely held view is that the deal, while compelling on humanitarian grounds, will not only bring greater costs than benefits to Israel, but will make the country less safe.
There is no question that the deal with Hamas creates a number of serious strategic and tactical problems for Israel. But there is also the potential that Israel will glean important security benefits from the costly exchange.
Despite a shared view that Israel should be tough on terrorism, fully 79 percent of Israelis say they support the decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a deal with Hamas, an organization whose charter repeatedly calls for Israel's destruction. However, and not surprisingly, almost two-thirds of Israelis believe the country's security will worsen as a result of the deal.