Israeli leaders have a long history of making lopsided trades with their Arab enemies. These include:
1985 – 1,150 prisoners for 3 captured Israelis
2000 – 450 Arab prisoners for 3 Israeli bodies and a kidnapped Israeli;
2008 – 5 Arab prisoners (including the psychopath Samir al-Kuntar) and 199 Arab bodies for 2 Israeli bodies;
2011 – 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit.
I strenuously opposed these unbalanced exchanges (e.g., the Kuntar and Schalit ones), even as I acknowledged the honorable Israeli intent not to abandon soldiers.
But there is nothing redeeming whatsoever in the exchange that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed today, releasing 104 murderers as a good-will gesture to encourage the Palestinian Authority to negotiate. Netanyahu justified this decision on the basis that "sometimes prime ministers are forced to make decisions that go against public opinion - when the issue is important for the country."
This is a specious argument. Much more persuasively, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon argues that this gesture "is a prize for the Palestinians, just for their willingness to sit with us at the negotiating table. This defines future standards of far-reaching concessions by Israel, vis-à-vis ridiculous demands by the other side." Danon rightly calls the release of dozens of terrorists who have the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands "lunacy."
Lunacy, but also immorality. The exchange betrays the families of victims and it betrays Israel's allies. It is a repugnant action.
To those who would excuse Netanyahu on the grounds that he feels pressure from the U.S. government, I reply: this a lame excuse, one often heard before; Israelis can and have often stood up to misguided American leaders; further, it appears to be inaccurate, for Netanyahu has recently suggested that, under the spell of the Ben-Gurion complex, has himself become convinced of the need for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Note that with this action Netanyahu contradicts his long-time hardline stance against the release of terrorists for political purposes. Two examples:
- 1995: In his book Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists, Netanyahu wrote that "Among the most important policies which must be adopted in the face of terrorism is the refusal to release convicted terrorists from prison. … Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists...they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse."
- 2008: as leader of the opposition, Netanyahu lambasted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his decision to release 199 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Mahmoud Abbas – and they were not nearly as murderous a group as the current ones, with only two having "blood on their hands." Mark Netanyahu's words: "The government … decided to release prisoners, and I ask why? For what? What did we receive? This crossing of a line, this release of murderers, is a dangerous move in the war on terror. … This weakens Israel and strengthens the terror elements. Most of the public – a huge part of the public – understands that this is faulty and reflects weakness and loss of way."
One consolation is that the Israeli body politic has changed views: where as it approved the 2008 swap by a nearly 2-1 ratio, polling shows a 9-to-1 disapproval of the release of the 104.
Comments: (1) This agreement confirms my concern that Netanyahu is moving left. (2) The unwarranted release of the 104 mortally taints the negotiations they enable. (July 27, 2013)
July 28, 2013 update: The Israeli cabinet vote today on the 104 went as follows, to be noted for the record. Those in favor:
1. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud)
2. Yuval Steinitz (Likud)
3. Moshe Ya'alon (Likud)
4. Gideon Sa'ar (Likud)
5. Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu)
6. Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu)
7. Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid)
8. Yael German (Yesh Atid)
9. Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid)
10. Shai Piron (Yesh Atid)
11. Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid)
12. Tzipi Livni (Hatnua)
13. Amir Peretz (Hatnua)
1. Gilad Erdan (Likud)
2. Yisrael Katz (Likud)
3. Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu)
4. Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu)
5. Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi)
6. Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi)
7. Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi)
1. Silvan Shalom (Likud)
2. Limor Livnat (Likud)
July 29, 2013 update: And here's the list of the 104 killers to be released:
1. Karim Yusef Yunis, arrested in January 1983 (Israeli citizen)
2. Maher Abdel Latif Yunis, arrested in January 1983 (Israeli citizen)
3. Issa Nimer Abed Rabbo, arrested in October 1984
4. Ahmed Farid Shehadeh, arrested in February 1985
5. Mohamed Ibrahim Nasr, arrested in May 1985
6. Rafi Farhoud Karajeh, arrested in May 1985
7. Mustafa Amer Ghnaimat, arrested in July 1985
8. Ziad Mahmoud Ghnaimat, arrested in June 1985
9. Othman Abdallah Bani Hasan, arrested in July 1985
10. Haza'a Mohamed Sa'di, arrested in July 1985
11. Mohamed Ahmed al- Toss, arrested in October 1985
12. Fayez Mutawi al-Khur, arrested in November 1985
13. Mohamed Musbah Ashour, arrested in February 1986
14. Ibrahim Nayef Abu Mukh, arrested in March 1986 (Israeli citizen)
15. Rushdi Hamdan Abu Mukh, arrested in March 1986 (Israeli citizen)
16. Walid Nimer Dakka, arrested in March 1986 (Israeli citizen)
17. Ibrahim Abdel Razek Bayadseh, arrested in March 1986 (Israeli citizen)
18. Ahmed Ali Jaber, arrested in July 1986 (Israeli citizen)
19. Afu Musbah Shkair, arrested in July 1986
20. Samir Ibrahim Abu Ni'meh, arrested in October 1986
21. Mohamed Adel Daoud, arrested in December 1987
22. Yassin Mohamed Abu Khdeir, arrested in December 1987
23. Bashir Abdallah Khatib, arrested in January 1988 (Israeli citizen)
24. Mahmoud Othman Jabarin, arrested in October 1988 (Israeli citizen)
25. Juma'ah Ibrahim Adam, arrested in October 1988
26. Mahmoud Salem Kharbish, arrested in November 1988
27. Samir Saleh Sarsawi, arrested in November 1988
28. Bilal Ahmed Hussein, arrested in December 1988
29. Ibrahim Lutfi Taqtouq, arrested in March 1989
30. Samir Nayef al-Na'neesh, arrested in March 1989
31. Bilal Ibrahim Damra, arrested in June 1989
32. Mustafa Othman al-Haj, arrested in June 1989
33. Nihad Yusef Jundiyeh, arrested in July 1989
34. Mohamed Mahmoud Hamdiyeh, arrested in July 1989
35. Raed Mohamed al-Sa'di, arrested in August 1989
36. Najeh Mohamed Muqbel, arrested in July 1990
37. Mohamed Jaber Nashbat, arrested in September 1990
38. Ahmed said al-Damuni, arrested in September 1990
39. Mohamed Abdel Majid Sawalha, arrested in December 1990
40. Hosni Faregh Sawalha, arrested in December 1990
41. Mohamed Ahmed al- Sabbagh, arrested in January 1991
42. Khaled Daoud Azraq, arrested in February 1991
43. Mukhles Sidki Sawafta, arrested in March 1991
44. Fares Ahmed Baroud, arrested in March 1991
45. Khaled Mohamed Asakreh, arrested in May 1991
46. Faisal Mustafa Abu al- Rub, arrested in September 1991
47. Jamal Khaled Abu Muhsen, arrested in October 1991
48. Abdel Rahman Yusef al- Haj, arrested in February 1992
49. Mohamed Ata Muamar, arrested in February 1992
50. Ibrahim Hasan Ighbariyeh, arrested in February 1992 (Israeli citizen)
51. Mohamed Said Ighbarieyh, arrested in February 1992 (Israeli citizen)
52. Yahya Mustafa Ighbarieyh, arrested in March 1992
53. Mohamed Tawfik Jabareen, arrested in March 1992
54. Numan Yusef Shalabi, arrested in May 1992
55. Adnan Mohamed al- Afandi, arrested in May 1992
56. Sharif Hasan Abu Dhailah, arrested in May 1992
57. Muayad Salim Hijja, arrested in May 1992
58. Faraj Saleh al-Rimahi, arrested in July 1992
59. Israr Mustafa Samarin, arrested in August 1992
60. Musa Izzat Kura'n, arrested in August 1992
61. Dia Zakariya al-Falouji, arrested in October 1992
62. Osama Zakariya Abu Hanani, arrested in October 1992
63. Mohamed Yusef Turkeman, arrested in October 1992
64. Ahmed Juma'a Khalaf, arrested in November 1992
65. Mohamed Fawzi Falneh, arrested in November 1992
66. Jamil Abdel Wahab Natsheh, arrested in December 1992
67. Nasser Hasan Abu Srour, arrested in January 1993
68. Mahmoud Jamil Abu Srour, arrested in January 1993
69. Taher Mohamed Zaboud, arrested in February 1993
70. Ahmed Said Abdel Aziz, arrested in February 1993
71. Osama Khaled Silawi, arrested in February 1993
72. Yusef Abdel Hamid Irshaid, arrested in March 1993
73. Atef Izzat Sha'ath, arrested in March 1993
74. Mahmoud Nofal Da'ajneh, arrested in March 1993
75. Mohamed Mustafa Afaneh, arrested in April 1993
76. Ramadan Mohamed Yakoub, arrested in April 1993
77. Ayman Mohamed Jaradat, arrested in April 1993
78. Omar Issa Masoud, arrested in May 1993
79. Yusef Awwad Masalha, arrested in May 1993
80. Mahmoud Musa Issa, arrested in June 1993
81. Rizek Ali Salah, arrested in June 1993
82. Salah Mahmoud Mukled, arrested in July 1993
83. Nael Rafik Salhab, arrested in September 1993
84. Ahmed Awad Kmeil, arrested in September 1993
85. Salameh Abdallah Musleh, arrested in October 1993
86. Esmat Omar Mansour, arrested in October 1993
87. Mikdad Ibrahim Salah, arrested in October 1993
88. Samir Hussein Murtaji, arrested in October 1993
89. Said Rushdi Tamimi, arrested in November 1993
90. Mohamed Yusef Shamasneh, arrested in November 1993
91. Abdel Jawad Yusef Shamasneh, arrested in December 1993
92. Ala Eddin Fahmi al-Karaki, arrested in December 1993
93. Nasser Fawzi Barham, arrested in December 1993
94. Hilmi Hamad al-Amawi, arrested in January 1994
95. Ala eddin Ahmed Abu Sitteh, arrested in January 1994
96. Midhat Fayez Barbakh, arrested in January 1994
97. Ayman taleb Abu Sitteh, arrested in January 1994
98. Yusef Said al-Al, arrested in February 1994
99. Atiyeh Salem Musa, arrested in March 1994
100. Hazem Kassem Shbair, arrested in March 1994
101. Ali Ibrahim al-Rai, arrested in April 1994
102. Mahmoud Mohamed Salman, arrested in May 1994
103. Rami Jawdat Barbakh, arrested in October 1994
104. Ibrahim Fayez Abu Ali, arrested in October 1994
For a more detailed listing, with citizenships, dates, affiliations crimes, victims, and punishments, click here.
July 30, 2013 update: Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the decision to release the 104 was made "with a heavy heart": "These are murderers. This is a challenge to justice, to law and to bereaved families, and I hear their voices." But he cited unspecified secret reasons to justify his vote in favor of the release:
Releasing prisoners came as a result of choosing a bad option over a worse option… We reached the decision to avoid the worse [option]. Many strategic considerations, which may be revealed in the future, stood behind this, and hence we must go forward with a release of pre-Oslo prisoners.
Comment: Obviously, I don't know what those strategic considerations might be (an offer of U.S. bunker busters for use against Iranian targets?) but they did not convince the seven cabinet members who voted no. I disbelieve Ya'alon, that some secret justifies this ugly and immoral act.
Livni, Kerry and Erekat. How does releasing killers promote peace?
July 31, 2013 update: Another possible clue for Netanyahu's shameful release of the 104 killers, offered by the often unreliable Barak Ravid of Ha'aretz:
The United States administration gave the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams on Tuesday letters of assurance which outlined the U.S. position vis-à-vis the peace talks, their conduct and their goals, in order to facilitate the renewal of peace talks, a senior Israeli official said. The content of the letters remains classified, yet it likely addresses the issues of borders and refugees. … the letter to Israel apparently included an American declaration stating Israel is a Jewish state and that the U.S. position is that the Palestinian refugees should return to the future Palestinian state.
Comments: (1) The U.S. government has often declared Israel to be a Jewish state; in particular, Barack Obama has stated that "Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state." So what exactly is the gain here? (2) That Palestinian "refugees" should go to the West Bank and Gaza rather than to Israel is so basic a requirement of any final status outcome that its articulation now amounts to practically nothing. (3) In short, if Ravid has it right, this letter of assurance amounts to nil.
Aug. 2, 2013 updates: (1) How interesting that the same State Department that pressured Israel to release 104 terrorists has put out a world wide terror alert and temporarily shut down 21 diplomatic missions due to fears of a terrorist attack. Is the place stupid, or what?
(2) Anat Berko, a specialist on Israel security prisoners, offers another implicit reason not to release the 104 at "Israeli Prisons, Hothouses for Breeding Palestinian Terrorists": their long periods in prison make them more dangerous.
as opposed to the ordinary felons who have to deal with the prison authorities on a one-to-one basis, the security prisoners have operational autonomy. In each jail, terrorists move within their own microcosms made up of prisoners from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or even al-Qaida and Hizballah. Each group has its own spokesman. The spokesman's role is to represent whichever organization he, and sometimes she, belongs to in dealing with the prison authorities. …
The conditions of the security prisoners are the responsibility of the Israeli government, which wants peace and quiet within the prison walls because every hunger strike ignites the Palestinian street. Between the abduction of soldiers and the peace process, the security prisoners are certain they will not serve their full terms. That certainty makes them stronger and gives them hope that they will be released fairly shortly even if they were sentenced to consecutive life terms. …
It is almost impossible to enumerate the benefits of being a security prisoner. Terrorists can finish their studies, and the younger ones get fictitious matriculation certificates certified by examiners paid by the Palestinian Authority. Until recently, adult terrorists were allowed for bachelors', masters' and doctoral degrees in the Open University, taking courses in Jewish studies, Zionism, etc., and perfecting their Hebrew. …
They refuse to work while in prison, even though they would be paid, because they do not want to serve the "Zionist enemy." They prefer to spend their time planning terrorist attacks to be carried out by their organizations, propagandizing and paving the way for less-hardened terrorists to follow in their footsteps in a life of anti-Israeli terrorism. Many leave prison healthier, better educated, and better connected – both socially and professionally – than when they entered. With their release they can add the important note "former security prisoner in an Israeli jail" to their résumés, enabling them to advance more quickly through the ranks of their various organizations.
By imprisoning Palestinian terrorist murderers, the State of Israel does not achieve deterrence; no attempt can be made to rehabilitate or reeducate them because they reject the idea and do not cooperate. They simply stew in their own juices and become more dangerous.
Depriving a person his freedom is the worst possible punishment that can be imposed, but society deserves justice, its victims have to be avenged, and that is also part of the philosophy of punishment. In the saga of the Palestinian terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails, the trials and tribulations of imprisonment, represented as overwhelming, are actually minor. The Israeli jails have turned into hothouses for breeding terrorists; they are laboratories which turn petty terrorists into specialists, and often with diplomas.
Aug. 5, 2013 update: Khaled Abu Toameh makes a number of important points for Gatestone Institute about the Palestinian response to the release of the 104. Quoting him:
- Many Palestinians do not see Israel's decision to release more than 100 Palestinians who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords two decades ago as a gesture on the part of Israel. Rather, they regard the Israeli move as something that Israel was supposed to have done anyway, many years ago. As Saeb Erekat, the chief PLO negotiator, explained: "This Israeli cabinet decision is an overdue step towards the implementation of the Sharm Sheikh agreement of 1999, whereby Israel committed to release all the pre-Oslo prisoners. We welcome this decision 14 years later."
- Many of the prisoners who are scheduled to be released do not even belong to Abbas's Fatah faction. It is unrealistic to think, for example, that members of Islamic Jihad or the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who killed Israelis are going to come out of prison and declare their support for the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution. There is also no guarantee that Fatah prisoners who were incarcerated before the signing of the Oslo Accords will endorse the peace process.
- Some Palestinians, including Abbas loyalists, see the release of a few dozen prisoners as a "bribe" offered by US Secretary of State John Kerry to the Palestinian Authority president to entice him to return to the talks. These Palestinians point out that in return for this "bribe," Abbas was forced to drop his two other preconditions for resuming the peace talks: a full cessation of settlement construction and Israeli acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
- There are also Palestinians who see the release of about 100 prisoners as a "minor" achievement for Abbas, especially in comparison to Hamas's success in securing the release of more than 1000 inmates in return for kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Schalit.
- In the long-term, many Palestinians will continue to see [the release] as part of an Israeli-American scheme to extract concessions from Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership.
August 20, 2013 update: Israel's International Relations and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, known for his close ties to Netanyahu, asked about the 104, replied that "We couldn't say no to the Americans in this situation."
Oct. 21, 2013 update: As the Government of Israel plans to release a second batch of murderers, Alex Fishman helpfully reviews the recidivist activities over the past two months of the first batch in "Leaving prison, returning to terror."
Oct. 29, 2013 update: With the release of 26 more murderers today, Gil Ronen provides the useful service in "A List of Monsters" of listing the gruesome listing of "murdered Jews young and old, including an elderly Holocaust survivor, with guns, knives, axes, and ropes."
Dec. 27, 2013 update: On the eve of the third release of murderers, a New Wave Research Institute poll of 500 Jewish, Hebrew-speaking adults conducted on Dec. 25 asked, "In light of terror incidents, do you support the release of prisoners next week in order to continue the negotiations?" 14.7 percent support the step and 79.0 oppose it, an over 5-to-1 wall of negativity.
Dec. 31, 2013 update: Amid protests, the third batch of murderers was ignominiously released last night.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Counter-terrorism
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