Hamas took greater than 200 individuals hostage throughout its lethal rampage in Israeli border cities on October 7, 2023. The hostages embrace kids and the aged. Though 4 of them have been launched, the destiny of the remaining is unknown as Qatar acts as an middleman in releasing the hostages. On this interview with Naomi Schalit, The Dialog’s senior politics and democracy editor, USC Dornsife’s Gregory F. Treverton, former chairman of the Nationwide Intelligence Council within the Obama administration, says most hostage conditions have particular targets. This, says Treverton, “is definitely an adjunct to warfare, and that makes it very completely different” – and really troublesome to resolve.
What do individuals in your discipline take into consideration hostage conditions? I think about the sensation is, “Oh my God, please do not let one thing like that occur.”
It is a full dilemma, as a result of on the one hand you sympathize with the hostages. And as we have now seen previously, the Israelis have been keen – and did – to launch a thousand hostages to get one Israeli again.
Alternatively, in case you make a deal to launch hostages, you solely encourage extra hostage takings. So that you’re damned in case you do, and damned in case you do not. In consequence, each authorities, together with the US, says, “We by no means take care of hostage takers.” However in fact all of them do – and they need to.
I feel this is among the most troublesome elements of working within the nationwide safety sector. You wish to free the individuals, however additionally, you will be criticized. Each time President Biden has introduced somebody out of Russia, individuals have stated, “Oh, he paid too excessive a worth” or “He is getting rewarded for taking hostages,” and to some extent that is true. You are really rewarding the hostage takers. However we nonetheless must take care of it. We wish to get our individuals out. And sooner or later, because the Israelis have proven, they’re keen to pay nearly any worth to get them again.
Israel launched greater than a thousand prisoners in 2011 in alternate for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas and held for 5 years. That is greater than 200 instances the variety of hostages, so what do you concentrate on that?
A minimum of in my skilled expertise, that is with out precedent. The closest parallel can be the hijacking and hostage-taking in Entebbe in 1976 by two Germans and two Palestinians throughout a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. Hijackers held 103 Israeli hostages after releasing 148 non-Israeli hostages. Hamas is holding twice as many hostages, and in very, very completely different circumstances. In Entebbe, the Israeli authorities knew the place they have been, they have been in a single place – the airplane – which had been pressured to land in Entebbe, Uganda, after taking off from Tel Aviv. And that is the place Israeli commandos have been in a position to rescue the hostages.
In Gaza we do not know the place they’re. We all know for certain that they’re unfold all through the tunnels, most likely in many various small teams. Hamas will then most likely use them as shields when preventing on the bottom begins. They may assume this could encourage the Israelis to not launch a serious assault – to stop Hamas from killing all of the hostages. We all know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shouldn’t be eager on a serious floor assault, and this actually places the onus on the Israelis for a way the hostage state of affairs will finish.
When you concentrate on the historical past of hostage negotiations, do you see something that has any relevance to what is going on on now?
It appears to me that it’s a fully completely different class. Even Entebbe was held hostage for some political objective: the hijackers needed Israel to launch a lot of Palestinian prisoners. A colleague of mine used to say that the purpose of terrorism is to make use of as little violence as doable whereas having as many individuals watching as doable. However Entebbe was really political theater, and this isn’t political theater. That is really an addition to warfare, and that makes it very completely different. It isn’t the standard tit-for-tat, “How a lot am I keen to pay?” or “Can I take a hostage to get another person out?”
What do the heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza and the beginning of a floor invasion let you know in regards to the authorities’s method to the hostage state of affairs?
It means that they both have a fairly good concept of the place the hostages are, which appears unlikely given the community of Hamas tunnels, or that they’ve determined to maneuver on regardless and can do their finest to guard the hostages and to free as they go. Given Hamas’s observe of utilizing civilians as human shields, the result is prone to be very ugly.
The place do you see this going?
I do not see a contented ending. I do not assume Israel might make a deal, given its personal politics. Or that Hamas would settle for it. So it appears to me that sooner or later there can be a floor assault and the hostages can be caught in the midst of it. I see nearly no different, given what Israel has promised: destroy Hamas. The Biden administration insists that Israel would not actually have a method. They’ve a need, which is to destroy Hamas. However that isn’t a method for coping with the hostages or for Gaza after the assault.
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