Mark SilverbergThe writer is a foreign policy analyst for the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel). He is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office), a member of Hadassah's National Academic Advisory Board and a Contributing Editor for Family Security Matters and Intellectual Conservative. He served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada. His book "The Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad." His articles are archived at www.acpr.org.il andwww.marksilverbeg.com.
On July 28th, 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 last four and a half years.
Failure to have done so would have resulted in a serious diplomatic crisis 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.
Among the 104 Palestinian terrorists scheduled to be released are Issa Abed Rabo, convicted of the murder of Revital Seri and Ron Levy near the Cremisan Valley in October 1984; Mohamed Dawd from Kalkilya who threw a Molotov cocktail at a car in 1987 killing Ofra and Tal Moses; Jumaa Adem and Mahmoud Kharbish who hurled a firebomb at a bus in the Jordan Valley in 1988 in an attack that left five dead including Rachel Weiss and her three children and a soldier David Dolorosa who tried to save the four; Jamal Muhsan from Jenin stabbed Shlomo Yehia, 76, in Kadima in 1991; Mahmoud Moamed who murdered Israel Prize Laureate Menahem Stern in the Valley of the Cross in 1989 and Mahmoud Issa who led the terror cell that kidnapped and murdered Border Guard officer Nissim Toledano in June 1993.
Israeli Arab citizens who are to be part of the prisoner release include Agbariya Hassan Mohammed, Agbariya Mustafa Mohammed Yehieh, Jabarin Mohammed Tawfik Suliman Yosef and Agbariya Hassan Mahmoud Ibrahim - members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who infiltrated an army base in 1992, murdering three soldiers; Fatah members Younis Abdel Latif Abdel Kader Maher and Younis Younis Fadel Fadel Karim who kidnapped Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg and murdered him; Al-Khatib Abdallah Kaid Bashir, a member of Fatah Force 17 who murdered Israeli civilian Chaim Hai Haktouk; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) members Abu Moch Ibrahim, Biadsa Abdel Razak Ahmed Ibrahim, Dakah Nimer Assad Walid and Abu Moch Hamdoun Mohammed Rushdi who kidnapped and executed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam; Daagna Nofel Mohammed Mahmoud of the PFLP who initiated and planned the murder of Israeli civilian Sarah Sharon, and Hamas member Baroud Ahmed Mohamed Fares who stabbed an Israeli civilian to death.
There is no doubt that the pending release of these terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands constitutes a capitulation to American pressure. Netanyahu claims to have had little choice given the strategic and security-related considerations presented to him - the most important of which, according to rumor, seem related to U.S. undertakings to support an Israeli air strike against Iran’s nuclear reactors – a promise highly unlikely to be kept given that the Obama administration continues to see Iran's President-elect Hasan Rouhani as a moderate.
But realistically, how can anyone justify the release of convicted murderers in return for the start of negotiations that are certain to fail?
What is being done to restore Israeli confidence that has been trampled both by the Second Intifada and by thousands of missiles that fell on Israel after it withdrew from Gaza in 2005? Nothing.
What is being done to punish Palestinian incitement to hatred and martyrdom emanating from their mosques, their media, their educational system, their efforts to de-legitimize Israel at the UN and in international courts, and through their long string of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs, songs and “music videos” as documented by Palestine Media Watch and Middle East Media Research Institute? Nothing.
Would America ever do what it is forcing Israel to do? Would it ever think of releasing any of those convicted and currently serving long jail sentences for involvement in the 9/11 attacks or any other terrorist assault on the United States and its citizens? Never.
The American position, as this Administration repeatedly states, is that anyone who attacks U.S. citizens will be hunted down and either be snuffed out by a drone attack or be locked away forever if they are captured. Yet, it urges an ally to release terrorists from prison. How can Americans, morally justify demanding that Israel do what they would never do?
And what exactly is the U.S. Administration seeking to achieve? After all, the maximum Netanyahu can offer is far less than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will accept. They even stated publically that any future Palestinian state will be Judenrein (Jew-free).
Israel 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. Given all this, how can the Palestinians negotiate peace with Israel while simultaneously revering terrorists as heroes because they have murdered Israelis.
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 Hizbullah'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.”
Besides, the idea of releasing prisoners in the hope that the Palestinian Arabs will be more merciful in their propaganda attacks actually invites an increase in those attacks. For over twenty years, Israeli governments have been freeing prisoners, 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.
There is no Palestinian Arab leader who would be willing to sign a peace deal with Israel unless it includes Jerusalem and guarantees a complete right of return of millions of Palestinian Arab “refugees” to Israel proper, something to which Israel will never accede.
The Palestinian Arabs have not declared any willingness to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state nor will they recognize the legitimacy of any such state no matter where its borders are drawn.
Two states for two peoples? No way will the Palestinians find that acceptable. With PA leader Mahmoud Abbas sitting right next to him as he spoke live recently, 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 Jewish tribe.
The Palestinians do not want peace. They have never wanted peace. They want Israel gone.
Knowing in advance that this will be a costly lesson in futility, this sort of American hypocrisy is inexcusable given that the U.S. would never place itself in such peril.
Instead of applauding Kerry’s success in forcing Netanyahu to take this step, we should be ashamed, given that it is being forced upon Israel by an American ally to further a process that even PA officials agree is nothing more than a ruse rather than a genuine pursuit of peace. That makes it doubly disgraceful on their part and suggests that the current U.S. Administration is trying to shore up its failed foreign policy at Israel’s expense.
More importantly, Abbas now knows that he needn’t kidnap an Israeli soldier to obtain the release of Palestinian terrorists by the “Zionist entity”. The U.S. will do it for him. As Ruthie Blum wrote recently in Israel Hayom: “Netanyahu should have learned by now that submission never leads to victory; it only breeds further surrender. Abbas is counting on it.”