For the third time in less than five months, the Olmert government has released convicted Arab terrorists from Israeli prison in "goodwill" gestures to PA chief Abbas.
A total of 771 Arab terrorists have been freed since July 20 of this year. On that date, Israel released 255 terrorists from prison. Shortly afterwards, dozens of wanted Fatah terrorists were allowed to find "refuge" from Hamas in Ramallah, and another 178 were removed from Israel's wanted lists (conditional on their cessation of terrorism).
Two months ago, on October 1, another 87 would-be murderers were freed.
Finally, Monday, no fewer than 429 terrorists - mostly of Fatah, and none from Hamas - were freed to their homes.
Shalit Still Captive in Gaza
Of this number, 21 went home to Gaza - where IDF soldier Gilad Shalit continues to be held hostage by Hamas-affiliated terrorists. Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid in June 2006, in which two IDF soldiers were killed. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi has gone on record in opposition to releasing prisoners from Gaza before Shalit is released.
Though the move is designed to bolster the stature of Mahmoud Abbas within the Palestinian Authority, Voice of Israel Radio reports that the move has received little coverage in the PA. In addition, Abbas was placed on the defensive by the choice of freed prisoners, and was forced to explain that it was Israel, and not he, who determined who would be freed.
PA officials were not appreciative of the release, saying the low number of freed terrorists was "a joke."
Official government sources emphasize that none of the freed terrorists have "blood on their hands." It has oft been pointed out by those opposed to the releases that this means only that they did not succeed in their attempts to murder Jews.
Almagor: Free Jews!
The Almagor Terrorist Victims Association is incensed by the release. "Palestinian terrorists should never be freed before their sentences are over," Almagor says, "but if they have been released, then Jews should be freed as well. There are only 25 Jewish prisoners... Experience has shown that 0% of Jewish security prisoners return to terrorism when freed, compared with 80% of Arab terrorists."
As is customary in such releases, the terrorists met with International Red Cross officials and promised not to engage in terrorist activity.
Almagor cites the late President Ezer Weizmann, saying he "set a precedent ten years ago when he accepted a list of Jewish prisoners submitted by the Honenu legal-rights organization and agreed that just because they do not have supporters who kidnap soldiers for ransom purposes doesn't mean they don't deserve the same consideration Palestinian terrorists get."