By Larry Gordon
I’ve spoken with some members of the Knesset and other Israeli officials, and based on what they said it seems to me that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails as a good-faith gesture toward the Palestinian Authority before they would return to the negotiating table was, sadly, the best of the bad choices Israel was forced to take action upon.
How and why do Israeli governments end up in these untenable positions time and again? And why do they allow themselves to be maneuvered by the international community into these absurd circumstances?
It is both horrible and intolerable that families of those killed and badly wounded by terrorists now in prison have to watch as those who killed their loved ones return home and be received, in wild and jubilant celebration, as heroes. If this absurd process goes forward, and at least 26 convicted terrorists may be released by the time you read this, perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry, whose foreign-policy initiatives are failing everywhere, can at least prevail on the Palestinians not to hurt the families further with those celebrations. It is not likely that he will attempt to do that, and even if he were inclined to, in typical Kerry fashion he would likely be unsuccessful.
The problem with the prisoner release and these types of activities that are a constant bane to Israel is twofold. The underlying premise is this absurd notion of what has become a corrupted and distorted version of “good-faith gestures” to the Palestinian Authority as a way to induce them to sit at the negotiating table with Israel. That may be how Israel views the situation. To the Arab world, and to a great extent to the United States, the release of murderers is a tacit acknowledgment on Israel’s part that the murders committed by these savages was somehow warranted by the prolonged occupation and oppression committed by Israel against the Palestinian population in the territories. The sad and hurtful part of this thought process is that unrelentingly ambitious politicians like Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads up Israel’s negotiating team, sees matters in a similar vein.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to stop the release of the murderers. The court refuses to get involved in muddled and murky backroom deals that are made to facilitate the political or negotiating process. These are not easy decisions for anyone to make, and while they are certainly hurtful to thousands of individuals, there is also a crazy wisdom to the thought process. You can rest assured that neither Prime Minister Netanyahu nor Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is concerned about the welfare of the murderers.
Following the rejection of their petition by the court, Meir Indor of the Almagor Terror Victims Organization stated as follows:
“Today the Supreme Court shut its doors to Jewish bereaved families and terror victims—something it never does to any Palestinian, from interfering with the construction of the security fence at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels, all the way to terrorists’ demands to put an end to the use of physical pressure in interrogations and to the IDF’s ‘neighbor procedure.’ The Supreme Court has effectively erased the standing of the victims and instead spread its wings over the terrorists, who from this point on can keep demanding the release of more and more murderers.
“This is a sad day for the bereaved families and for Israeli society, and a day of victory for the terrorist groups and their supporters. Mahmoud Abbas now has a green light to demand that further batches of murderers be released from prison, without any legal obstacles.
“The bereaved families see that the prime minister’s brand of immoral politics has made its way into the halls of the Supreme Court. In the absence of sense or morality on the part of the prime minister and the court, we look for hope to the 80 percent of Israelis who oppose the neutering of the Israeli justice system.”
According to my Knesset sources, Israel was faced with making one of three choices in order to move the so-called peace process forward. The choices were freezing settlement construction, agreeing that the 1967 borders would be the basis for negotiations between the parties, and freeing prisoners.
Israel made the least difficult of the choices, although the prisoner release is indeed hurtful to many thousands of people as well as to the overall image of the nation. The arm-twisting that resulted in the prisoner release is a way of forcing Israel to express, albeit hesitatingly, that the brutal murders these butchers committed were somehow warranted, explainable, and understood. This is an awfully difficult and distasteful choice to be forced to make.
But Israel still views itself as having had no choice but to free these prisoners, regardless of the reaction. Agreeing to a settlement freeze is the most destructive and counterproductive of all the options. To help assuage the national pain that accompanied the release of murderers, Israel this week announced the construction of close to a thousand apartments and homes in areas that the PA Arabs dream of taking over and expunging Jews from.
Even Secretary Kerry, while calling all settlement “illegitimate,” said this week there was an understanding between the parties that the announcement on construction in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem would proceed as scheduled. So even though the Palestinian officials vociferously protested the announcement of the construction, it was all choreographed and played out for the purpose of internal Arab consumption. It’s nothing more than additional Arab disingenuousness and duplicity.
So, Mr. Kerry and the Americans agree at this stage that Israel, at minimum and as part of any future agreement, should stay put in places like Maaleh Adumim, Efrat, Bet El, and other areas known as the major settlement blocks where over 70 percent of the settlement population resides.
Of course, there is a great deal more to do. That includes the idea that Jews should be able to live and build wherever they desire. It is blatantly racist to support a policy that discriminates against Jews based solely on their Jewishness. Is this a policy that the always evolving and freethinking Barack Obama will routinely support?
That Mr. Kerry says that in his estimation all settlements are illegitimate is meaningless and unhelpful diplomatic hyperbole. There is no basis in international law for Judea and Samaria to be considered unlawful or even illegitimate. And if this is sovereign Israeli territory, then only the Israeli government has the right and ability to authorize construction on these lands. Its so-called “lack of legitimacy” is Mr. Kerry’s way of pandering to the Arab countries and the anti-Jewish international community.
You will notice that Mr. Kerry was careful not to refer to the settlement enterprise as illegal. He knows that this assertion is not supported by any genuine interpretation of international law. So Kerry dances around “illegitimacy” so as to placate the Arabs.
Among those slated to be released is Abu-Musa Salam Ali Atia, a Gaza Strip resident and member of the Fatah party who was convicted of murdering Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenburg as part of an initiation into a Palestinian terror group, according to CiF Watch, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism. Rotenburg was at work in 1994 when he “was attacked by two Palestinian laborers with axes,” according to CiF Watch.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, “Eight prisoners on the list were due to be released in the next three years and two in the next six months. The prisoner release will be carried out at least 48 hours after the list will have been published. It was emphasized in the aforesaid discussion that if any of the released prisoners return to hostile activity against the State of Israel, they will be returned to continue serving their sentences.”
Matslah Abdallah Salama, a Hamas terrorist, also has been granted his freedom. “Together with an accomplice, [Salama] entered 59 year-old Iraqi-born Reuven David’s mini-market, tied him up, gagged him, and then beat him to death, before escaping in the victim’s car,” CiF Watch reported.
This is the price Israel pays for the remote possibility of peace. So you may be wondering whether the State of Israel made the right choice when faced with selecting from the three options. It is important to bear in mind that if they would agree to freeze settlements or agree to negotiate based on the 1967 borders, there would be no recourse and the damage done would be irreparable.
At least with the prisoner release, there are always some options to take or recourse to exercise. And those options includes a drone strike or two. v
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