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  • Robert Farago

Hostage to Fate?

The Hamas hostage exchange is a really bad idea

If any of Hamas’ hostages were blood relatives or close friends, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I wouldn’t be suggesting anything other than “give them whatever the hell they want.” But they’re not, so I’m free to state the obvious: the Hamas - Israeli hostage exchange ceasefire is a terrible idea.

Before I make my case, it should be noted that Israel must reckon they won’t lose their military advantage by taking a four-day break from their war against Hamas. The IDF may even need the pause to rearm, regroup and reposition. They will certainly gain valuable intel from the hostages.

The hostage exchange pause also relieves some of the diplomatic pressure on Israel, facing condemnation that belongs to Hamas for using civilians as human shields. Not to mention the October 7 slaughter, rape and desecration of innocent men, women, children and babies.

The mainstream media isn’t talking about it, but anyone with a lick of common sense can see the downside of this deal with the devil. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton for one.

I understand humanitarian concerns, but there are 220 hostages and nine million Israeli citizens who are threatened, not just by Hamas but by Hezbollah and fundamentally by Iran.

For its part, America’s official policy is unequivocal: “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” For good reason. Negotiating with terrorists…

  1. Legitimizes terrorism - Both the terrorist’s cause and their methods, setting a dangerous precedent, encouraging other groups to follow suit, undermining the rule of law.

  2. Rewards terrorism - Giving in to terrorists' demands – releasing hostages, paying ransoms, pausing a military campaign and/or withdrawing troops – encourages terrorists to carry out more attacks and take more hostages.

  3. Emboldens terrorists - Negotiating with terrorists makes them more confident that they can achieve their goals, increasing the frequency and severity of their attacks.

  4. Creates more terrorists - Terrorists use the status they gain from negotiations to recruit newbies into their death cult.

Did I say that America is resolute in its no-negotiations policy? My bad.

The Reagan Administration secretly sold 500 BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran in an attempt to free seven American hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. (One hostage was released.)

President Obama traded five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

President Biden “liberated” $6b in Iranian oil money (and “several” sanctions-busting Iranians) to secure the release of five Americans held in Iran – the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. Including, of course, Hamas.

And now the State of Israel is trading prisoners, “humanitarian aid” and time away from their military campaign in exchange for a small percentage of Hamas’ hostages.

The New York Times and its ilk have greeted the pause, aid and swap as a blessing not a curse. The same New York Times that published this from Bret Stephens back in August, after the Biden team sent the Iranians that $6b love letter.

There’s a better way. Every time Iran takes another hostage, the administration imposes another sanction. Every time Iran or its proxies attack a single U.S. military installation, the United States retaliates against multiple Iranian targets… “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun” is supposed to be the Chicago way, as the line from “The Untouchables” has it. If the administration wants better behavior from Iran, whether over nukes or hostages, it could profit from employing the same approach.

Hostage taken = sanction? I find that weak beer, but Mr. Stephens has the right idea.

Hostage-taking nations or terrorists (a distinction without a difference when it comes to Iran) need to understand that taking a hostage is the best way to get a serious ass-kicking. With no time-outs.

In this case, it’s America, not Israel, that’s pulling the gun. The big gun.

Yes, well, positioning two aircraft carrier groups within striking distance of Iran and its proxies without using them when provoked is like pulling a gun that shoots a flag that says BANG!

And provoked we’ve been. According to, “US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria came under attack four separate times on Thanksgiving Day... There have been at least 73 against US and coalition forces since October 17.”

America’s response?

A US military aircraft – an AC-130 gunship – had responded immediately to the attack, firing on a vehicle and killing a yet unknown hostile forces, a US official told CNN on Tuesday. Later in the day, US Central Command announced that the US had also launched precision airstrikes on two facilities used by the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group in Iraq.

Eight terrorists. Two facilities. You want a subdued “proportional response”? You got it! You want to send a message to terrorists never to fuck with U.S. assets or take hostages? That ain’t it.

I find it hard to believe that the leaders of Israel and the United States don’t understand this simple calculus: negotiating with terrorists, failing to punish their aggression, trades short term gain for long term pain. At best.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the prospect of America being dragged into a wider conflict – as the naysayers say. But I’m sure we’ll regret letting anti-American terrorists gain strength from our and Israel’s weakness.

If not now, soon. The price Israel and America are paying for this ceasefire and hostage recovery is a down payment on disaster. Just sayin’.


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