One of the most basic concepts discussed in an introductory economics class is that people respond to incentives. Whether they are used to reward positive and wanted behaviors or to punish unwanted ones, incentives play a major role in the decision making of individuals.
Governments oftentimes use incentives to promote a certain policy amongst their citizens. Last week, for example, the Israeli government released 26 Palestinian prisoners — all convicted murderers — as a goodwill gesture to encourage and expedite the American-brokered peace talks.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a failure by the international community to recognize that this can be seen as a different sort of incentive — an incentive to kill, kidnap and terrorize with the expectation of a reward. While this Israeli concession is an incredible commitment to peace, it is hard to ignore the damage that the release of murderers can have on the security and welfare of the country.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been encouraged to exercise restraint when faced with attacks. World leaders have subtly — and not so subtly — hinted to Israeli leaders that giving away land would prove Israel is truly serious about a two-state solution. Even during wars of self-defense, Israel takes tremendous and life-threatening precautions to ensure minimal civilian casualties.
Col. Richard Kemp of the United Nations Watch said the Israel Defense Forces “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
The sacrifices that Israel makes should be met with equal sacrifice on the part of the Palestinians.
A few years ago, in exchange for one captured and imprisoned soldier, Gilad Shalit, Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit, too, was released with the hope that if Israel capitulated to Palestinian demands, then maybe, just maybe, there would finally be stability or even peace.
It is, then, upsetting that Israel must concede to sacrifices to those in the Palestinian leadership who encourage terror activity. It is even more upsetting when those sacrifices are met with even more destruction and losses of life.
If you have ever been mugged, assaulted or kidnapped, consider the release of your aggressor into society, without any preconditions and necessary rehabilitation. Such a thought is completely unfathomable. Such an action would only encourage more crime.
Should Israel, concerned with the protection and safety of its people, be expected to behave differently?
Speaking from an Israeli background, we know Israelis are tired of war. We hope for and believe in a time when true peace will arrive in the region. Peace, however, will not come if Israel will be forced to release more convicted criminals, give up more land or continue to concede to unconditional demands.
The Palestinians should generate a reasonable plan for peace, present it to the Israelis and demonstrate that they can responsibly carry out that plan. When there is a commitment to peace by responsible leaders and concrete progress is made, Israel, as it has displayed, will willingly sacrifice for the sake of peace.
“Conceding Peace” was originally published in the Minnesota Daily.