In July 2013, Israel’s Ministry of Justice disclosed the names of Palestinian terrorists who will be released over the next nine months as the price Washington is demanding from the Israelis to entice the Palestinian Authority to rejoin the talks they’ve been boycotting for the past four and a half years. Failure to have done so would have resulted in a serious diplomatic rift between Israel and the U.S. Nevertheless, Israeli opposition to the release and especially to U.S. pressure on Israel to force that release is growing.
Freeing these prisoners is problematic both from an ethical and tactical perspective. These are not car thieves or pickpockets. They are monsters with human faces. All are serving life sentences for murder or attempted murder. Their crimes were gruesome acts of barbarism marked by demonic cruelty. Dan Margalit encapsulated the implications of this release well in Israel Hayom: “Ponder for a moment to whom the Palestinians will one day look as the national symbols of their past fight – axe murderers and child stabbers?” Ponder as well that many of these murders took place well inside Israel proper, proof that these terrorists made no distinctions between “settlements” and pre-1967 Israel.
There is no doubt that the pending release of Palestinian terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands constitutes a capitulation to American pressure. Netanyahu said as much in claiming to have had little choice given the strategic and security-related “considerations” presented to him by Secretary Kerry, the details of which can only be surmised at this point.
But it does raise moral and tactical questions. From a moral perspective, would America ever do what it is forcing Israel to do? Would the U.S. ever think of releasing any of those convicted and currently serving long prison sentences for involvement in the 9/11 attacks or any other terrorist assault on United States citizens? How can we, as Americans, morally justify demanding that Israel do what we ourselves would never do?
And from a tactical perspective, why would Israel’s major ally compel her to release convicted terrorists to facilitate negotiations with the Palestinians that are certain to fail – and especially why now, when Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Iraq are burning?
Is Secretary of State Kerry and, in a greater sense, the entire Obama foreign policy team so ideologically committed to the “peace process” mirage that in their blind zeal they are oblivious to the realities on the ground?
How can he believe that this release of terrorists will lead to an agreement that will restore Israeli confidence that has already been trampled both by the Second Intifada and by thousands of Palestinian missiles that fell on Israel after it withdrew from Gaza in 2005?
How can he believe that this release will induce the Palestinians to cease the incitement to hatred and martyrdom emanating from their mosques, their media and their educational system? In official PA schools and news media, in TV shows and political caricatures, Israel’s right to exist is denied, Israeli cities are given Arabic names and Jews have no history in Israel. Abbas demands the release of the most ruthless, murderous terrorists as a precondition for peace talks and proceeds to treat these despicable terrorists as Palestinian heroes.
How can Kerry believe that such a “gesture” will lead to an end to Palestinian efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel at the UN and in international courts, their naming of kindergartens, schools, summer camps, streets, market squares, community centers and sporting events after terrorists, their using maps of Israel’s internationally recognized borders (plus Gaza and the West Bank) all emblazoned with the Arabic letters for “Palestine”, their murderous violence directed towards religious minorities – especially Christians, their children’s TV programs describing Jews as “pigs and monkeys”, Fatah’s Facebook pages detailing the “glorious martyrs” (suicide bombers) who self-detonated in Israeli pizza parlors, marketplaces, restaurants and buses, their desecration of Jewish holy sites like the Cave of the Patriarchs, their denial of any Jewish historical claims to any of the land of Israel especially the Western Wall (the remnant of the Temple Mount destroyed by Rome in the year 70 CE) and their continuing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs, songs and “music videos” as documented by Palestine Media Watch and the Middle East Media Research Institute?
In short, any prospect for a successful conclusion to these negotiations seems destined to founder for the same reasons that led to the collapse of the negotiations in 2000/2001 and 2008 namely – the PLO refusal to recognise Israel as the national home of the Jewish people; their insistence that any Palestinian State not be de-militarized; their rejection of the right of Jews to live in the West Bank under any circumstances, and their objection to abandoning the claimed right for millions of Palestinian Arabs to emigrate and settle in Israel.
Why must Israel (the only liberal democracy in the Middle East) place itself in peril for U.S. ideological fantasies that have no chance of success? The U.S. administration is more than aware that Palestinian parades in Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be held in honor of these murderers, flowers will be thrown at the bus carrying them home, poems will be written about their “glorious” exploits, horns will honk, cars will trail streamers behind them, and a “national day of celebration” will be held.
No surprise here. According to a recent Pew Research Survey, 62% of Palestinian Muslims say that suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” As such, it should be abundantly clear that the Palestinians cannot be trusted (despite their promises to the contrary) if they eulogize terrorists because they have murdered Israelis. Any student of history knows that peace is not possible with those who sanctify death and who consider murderers to be martyrs.
The U.S. cannot seem to grasp that Abbas has no intention of preparing his people for peace with Israel and nothing that happens in Washington or Ramallah can or will change that. As Walter Russell Mead wrote recently in American Interest: “Signing a deal with the PA will not stop rockets coming from Gaza, will not stop Palestinian exiles from continuing a campaign of de-legitimization against Israel, will not stop foreign powers like Iran supporting rejectionist factions of the Palestinians with weapons, money and diplomatic cover, and will not end Hezbollah’s terror campaign against Israelis and Jews worldwide. Given all that, it is hard for many Israelis to see enough benefit to justify serious territorial concessions for a Potemkin peace.”
For over twenty years, Israeli governments have been freeing terrorists, providing jobs and allowing the flow of goods and donations as goodwill gestures and confidence-building efforts, with an organization that, to this day, has not bothered, even for the sake of keeping up appearances, to change its Charter that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist no matter where its borders are drawn.
Recently, with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas sitting right next to him as he spoke, the PA’s Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud el-Habash compared the decision of the PA leadership to negotiate with Israel to the agreement of the Prophet Muhammad on a 10-year truce with his Jewish rivals in the Quraish tribe of Mecca, known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya, reached in the year 628 CE. The significance of the Treaty is that Mohammad reneged on the promise and used the respite to build up his forces and conquer the Quraish.
Habash’s sermon mirrored the same incendiary historical comparison made by Yasser Arafat both in a Johannesburg speech he delivered on May 10th, 1994 and again on August 6th, 1995 in a speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo when he compared the Oslo Accords to Hudaibiya. Earlier, on September 13th, 1993, on Lebanese TV, he explained exactly what the Palestinians have in mind for Israel. He stated: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory we can in Palestine, established sovereignty there, and use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
Fast forward to 2010 when a poll sponsored by The Israeli Project found most Palestinians refuse to accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and while some accept the concept of two states, they regard it as a first step toward one state ruled by Palestinians – which is why no mention is ever made of the fact that Israel offered 97% of the West Bank (along with all of Gaza) for a Palestinian state in 2000 at Camp David………….and Arafat turned it down without even the façade of making a counter-offer. Instead, he went home and started the Second Intifada two months later.
There is absolutely no basis for the belief that yielding the territory gained by Israel in the Six-Day War will pacify Israel’s neighbors. The Palestinians do not want peace with Israel. They have never wanted peace with Israel, and there will be no peace with Israel despite the charade in Washington, because they will accept nothing less than its complete annihilation and the removal of every Jew from what they regard as their land, notwithstanding any agreement signed. For them, Israel will always be “occupied Palestine” and they consider Israel’s establishment in 1948 to be the real “nakba” (catastrophe).
President Obama and his foreign policy-team fail to understand that, for the Palestinians, this is a zero-sum conflict in which there can only be one victor which is why, when the Palestinians shout “Death to Israel” in the streets of Nablus, Ramallah and Gaza City, they mean it.
Nevertheless, if past history is any indication, Israel will be muscled into surrendering more land in order to establish yet another authoritarian, jihad-infested Arab state in return for more empty promises, another worthless agreement, more terror, and new threats of war. The tragedy is that the results of this release are predictable. The Almagor Terrorist Victims Association (ATVA) disclosed in April 2007 that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the previous five years had been killed by terrorists who had been previously freed from Israeli jails, and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has observed that the terrorists released in the 2004 Elhanan Tenenbaum prisoner exchange deal caused the deaths of 231 Israelis.
Instead of applauding Kerry’s success in forcing Netanyahu to take this step, this administration should be ashamed given that this release is being forced upon Israel by an American ally to further a process that even PA officials admit is nothing more than a ruse. That makes it doubly disgraceful, and suggests that the true motive behind this latest U.S. “peace effort” is to shore up this administration’s failed policies in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia and China …………… at Israel’s expense.
The Palestinians now know that they need not kidnap Israeli soldiers to obtain the release of Palestinian terrorists. The U.S. will do it for them.
What the Israelis should tell the Palestinians is that there will be no release until there is an agreement satisfactory to Israel – an agreement that includes either an IDF presence in any future Palestinian state (thereby insuring that it is truly demilitarized) or at least the right to deploy rapidly on the West Bank and in the Jordan Valley in the event of a security crisis threatening Israel from the east; posting Israeli security forces at the border crossings of any future Palestinian state; exclusive Israeli control over the territory’s air space; zero compromise on the “right of return” other than to the new Palestinian state; an end to Palestinian anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement (the details of which are set out above); and unequivocal recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
But don’t wait for them to accept these terms. It won’t happen any time soon. That’s because killing Jews is the only commitment that Palestinian leaders have ever honored, especially while engaged in “negotiating peace.” As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary: “So long as the Palestinians are unable to re-imagine their national identity outside of an effort to extinguish the Zionist project and to therefore recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, negotiations are doomed to fail.”