What is the point of keeping Palestinian security terrorists in Israeli jails? Imprisonment serves three purposes: punishment, rehabilitation, and prevention.

Vengeance is rarely thought of as an acceptable goal of incarceration. At any rate, a mass murder or an attempt thereof is hardly avenged by keeping the Arabs in comfortable conditions, supplied with satellite TV, halal food, cellular phones, largely unregulated visits, shopping, and even pocket money siphoned from the very taxpayers they tried to kill.

The notion of reforming the terrorists presupposes that they are like common criminals. Wrong. They are good people with nationalist beliefs. They are good people in the same sense as Shlomo ben Yosef, Avraham Stern, Yitzhak Shamir, or Menahem Begin—our terrorists. They are good people in the same sense as the Allied bomber pilots who unleashed their deadly cargo on German towns. They fight for their political goals, and their enemies’ lives pale in comparison to those goals.

Reforming criminals makes sense insofar as the supply of them is fairly limited; therefore, rehabilitation serves the goal of prevention. But in case of political terrorists, the supply is unlimited. Israel currently keeps 0.5% of the Palestinian population in jail. Would anyone imagine that a determined population cannot spare another 0.5% of its members for an important political purpose?

Comfortable prison conditions encourage terrorism, but even if they were very bad, there would still be many who would take the risk. It remains debatable whether large-scale anti-terror operations can curb Palestinian terrorism. British anti-terror measures in Palestinian villages failed to produce the desired effect despite mass hangings and the burning of entire villages. Ibrahim Pasha appears to have had greater success a century before then, but we really know very little about those events, and it could be that the riots simply burned out on their own.

Anti-terrorist propaganda is not an option. The American government erred tremendously in forcing Israel to accept a semblance of democracy in Palestine. An authoritarian ruler friendly to Israel could, theoretically, bend the population to accept their terms. Democratically elected rulers compete with radicals and have to adopt radical slogans. A very strong democratic ruler might have addressed a relatively moderate Palestinian majority and lambasted the radical agenda, but no such ruler exists.

Nor is prevention possible by force. The Americans succeeded in training a Palestinian police force, but so far its main achievements have been against criminals and Hamas charities. As time goes by, the policemen’s zeal will fade and their efficiency will decrease. Their numbers and wage requirements will increase until it becomes impossible to finance them with foreign aid. A still-too-small 30,000-strong police force would eat up to 50% of the aid. Palestinian police therefore wouldn’t be able to fight terrorism even if they wanted to.

But terrorism is changing on its own. The established terrorist groups have matured and are not eager to endanger their social and financial status, go underground, and suffer reprisals. Large-scale terrorism has declined, but the grassroots terrorism of young and zealous cells and individuals is increasingly becoming a problem. Such terrorism is a function of political issues, and cannot be prevented.

When vengeance, rehabilitation, and prevention all fail with Palestinian terrorists, hanging them could become a viable solution.