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Knesset Member Warns of Danger of Potential Prisoner Exchange

A Knesset member demanded Monday that if Israel ever again exchanges security prisoners for hostages, the prisoners must be expelled from the country as soon as they are set free.

Israel has offered to release Shiite prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers and Western hostages held by extremist groups in Lebanon.

Hanan Ben-Porat of the National Religious Party referred to the “bad experience” the last time Israel traded prisoners for hostages, when in May 1985, Israel released 1,100 Palestinians and other detainees in exchange for three Israel Defense Force soldiers held by a terrorist group in Lebanon.

The deal included 598 Palestinians convicted of terrorist acts in Israel or against the IDF in Lebanon.

According to Ben-Porat, 200 of them were subsequently rearrested for security offenses, which included attacks on Israeli soldiers and the murder of Arabs alleged to be “collaborators with the Israeli enemy.”

Eighty of them are still in prison in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 34 have been deported and six left voluntarily, Ben-Porat said.

“The figures speak for themselves,” Ben-Porat told Israel Radio on Monday.

The lopsided exchange in 1985 was widely criticized here at the time. It liberated some of the most notorious mass killers who had been in prison for as long as 20 years.

One of them was Kozo Okamoto, the sole survivor of the Japanese Red Army terrorist gang responsible for the Ben-Gurion Airport massacre of 1972, in which 27 people were killed and 72 wounded.

The three soldiers freed in the exchange — Hezi Shai, Yosef Groff and Nissim Salem — were prisoners of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a terrorist gang headed by pro-Syrian Ahmed Jabril.

They were captured in 1982, in the early days of the war in Lebanon.

In November 1983, Israel traded some 3,000 prisoners in the Ansar detention camp in southern Lebanon for six Israeli soldiers. But those prisoners were never convicted of specific crimes.

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