Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan has warned against any further prisoner swaps with terrorist groups in return for captive citizens.
Speaking at a "Meet The Press" interview, Erdan stated that Israel must do everything in its power to free the two Israeli civilians currently held hostage by Hamas in Gaza – 26-year-old Avraham (Avera) Meginsu, and a still-unidentified Arab-Israeli resident of the Negev.
However, Erdan warned that past experience has clearly demonstrated that acceding to Hamas's exaggerated demands to release scores of convicted terrorists from prison in exchange would be a grave mistake.
"To free terrorists, in light of the lessons learned from previous such transactions? No more," the Likud minister declared. "Israel needs to do everything, but not to free terrorists, who return afterwards to carrying out terrorist attacks."
Israel has in the past exchanged hundreds of terrorists, many of convicted murderers, in exchange for kidnapped citizens. Most recently, the 2011 Shalit Deal saw over 1,000 convicted terrorists – who were responsible for the murders of hundreds of Israelis, mostly civilians – released in exchange for a single soldier, Gilad Shalit.
The deals have been controversial, with opponents warning they simply encourage further kidnappings, and make a mockery of the Israeli justice system by allowing convicted killers to walk free after serving just a few years. What's more, studies have shown that the majority of terrorists released under such deals return to terrorist activities.
This time, Hamas has demanded the release of dozens of dangerous terrorists as a precondition to even starting talks over freeing the two captive Israelis.
Erdan also addressed the controversial decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to tell cabinet ministers in the last government – in which Erdan also served – about the kidnapping, leaving them only to find out for themselves some time afterwards.
Mengistu – who has a history of mental illness – has reportedly been in Hamas captivity for 10 full months, having crossed into Gaza shortly after the end of Operation Protective Edge. He reportedly suffers from a mental illness and had gone missing.
"It would have been appropriate for the cabinet to be made aware of the subject," Erdan said, but cautioned it was not particularly relevant to the current situation.
"Would it have changed the outcome? I don't think so."
The decision not to inform the cabinet came, he said, "from a place of discretion, so as not to allow Hamas to increase pressure on the government."