Last year a captured Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit) was released by Hamas. After months of debriefing the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is using information learned from Shalit to improve the "captivity training" given to its pilots and special operations troops. These are the most likely to be captured and held for years. Since Shalit was seized in 2006, Palestinians and Hezbollah have been obsessed with kidnapping Israelis but have not been able to pull it off.
The reason for this obsession is the payoff. It was last October that, for the first time since 1985, Israel exchanged imprisoned Palestinians for a captured Israeli soldier (Gilad Shalit). Back in 1985, three Israelis that had been captured during the 1982 war with Lebanon and Syria were exchanged. Each Israeli freed required that 350 Palestinians be released. Over the last three decades Israel has released some 7,000 Palestinians and other Arabs to obtain the freedom of 16 Israelis. That's 438 Arabs per Israeli.
While Palestinians proclaimed this lop-sided swap as a great victory, it's actually another sign of continued Palestinian decline. Since 1985, or 1948 (when Israel was created), Palestinians in particular, and Arabs in general, have continually failed to deal with their inability to cope. Israelis, in contrast, have coped very well, and this only angers the Palestinians and Arabs even more. The recent changes in Israeli captivity training are another example of this coping.
Most Israelis believe that no Israeli should be abandoned to the enemy. The Arabs, in contrast, have sold out the Palestinians several times, and the corruption and double-dealing among the Palestinians is a growing source of unrest within the Palestinian community. It was this attitude that sparked the "Arab Spring" uprisings last year. But there was little Arab Spring unrest among the Palestinians. There was some talk of eliminating corruption but the fixation on the destruction of Israel remained center-stage.
In the half century before 1948, there had been dozens of similar territorial disputes throughout the world that had been settled but not the Palestinian one. Palestinians have managed to redefine the concept of victory and defeat by declaring most of their failures victories. But economic, political, and cultural success has eluded the Palestinians. Worse, most Palestinians refuse to acknowledge that they even have problems. Instead they blame others and demand that Israel be destroyed and Jews (who have lived in Israel continuously for over 3,000 years) be expelled from the region.
Now Hamas is urging its followers to take greater risks to grab more Israeli soldiers and civilians. If they are successful, the Israelis will be forced to adopt the "no-negotiations" approach to terrorism that most nations use. That will increase the violence between Israelis and Palestinians but as long as the Palestinian internal (Arab language) media continues preaching the destruction of Israel as the only solution to the dispute, that is where it is going.
Only 477 Palestinian prisoners were freed on the same day that Shalit was released. The other 550 were released over the next few weeks. Many of those released were convicted of killing Israelis via terrorist acts. Some 300 were serving life sentences for murder. The worst of these were not allowed back into the Palestinian territories but were forced to go into exile (in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar). The U.S. opposed the release of some of these Palestinians because their attacks had killed Americans. The families of Israeli victims are protesting as well, as some are going to court.
Most of the terrorism occurred in the six years after the PLO rejected an Israeli peace offer in 2000, because radicals insisted it was not enough. That began over a decade of Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Within five years the Palestinian terrorism campaign had been neutralized (mainly by sealing off the Palestinian territories from Israel) but not before thousands of Israelis had been killed or wounded. As a result, about 6,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons because of terrorist activities. Hamas has declared that it will kidnap more Israelis in order to get the rest of these Palestinian "heroes" freed. Many of those freed for Shalit agree with this strategy and are calling for more terrorist attacks.