abbas netanyahu - AP - September 15 2010
Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, September 15, 2010. Photo by AP
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The waves of excitement and joy that swept over the country with Gilad Shalit's return home were accompanied by concerns about the price Israelis might pay for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who took part in savage acts of terrorism. Many of them refuse to express contrition for the murder of Israeli civilians and cling to the path of violent struggle.

On the eve of the prisoner exchange, High Court petitions mentioned that a significant number of prisoners released in past deals returned to their subversive ways. Critics of the deal say it will encourage Palestinian terror groups to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to win the release of terrorists still behind bars.

To reduce the threat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took steps to ensure that several dozen top Hamas men among the released prisoners will not be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank. Yet the main threat to Israelis and the state's strategic interests flies on the Hamas flags that welcomed the freed prisoners to the territories. Songs of praise for Hamas reinforced warnings by far-right ministers that the deal will strengthen Hamas and thereby increase the terror danger.

Indeed, the prisoner swap, like the unilateral Gaza pullout, teaches the Palestinians that whereas Israel's right-wing government is loath to free Fatah leaders and struggles frantically against international recognition of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, Hamas, using its violent methods, returns hundreds of prisoners to their homes. With his decision to pay the necessary price to free Shalit, Netanyahu showed leadership and determination, standing up to the extreme right-wing bloc.

Hopefully he'll display these qualities and support our Palestinian partner, Mahmoud Abbas, who has spared no effort to stop terror and declares day and night his opposition to violence. Netanyahu should involve Abbas in a discussion on the composition of the 550 prisoners to be released in the deal's second phase. That would be a worthy start to serious talks on a final-status agreement based on the Quartet's framework.