How We Lost the War on Terror
How We Lost the War on Terror

We lost the latest round of the war on terror.

It was on Independence Day that we first learned of the tunnel being dug underneath the prison walls, ready for the escape of 120 terrorists.  President Peres, during an interview on Channel 1, was asked whether he thought it appropriate, in exchange for negotiations, to accede to the Palestinians’ demand to free murderers.  He answered affirmatively, and it became instantly clear that we had a problem.

A month earlier, the Palestinians had begun appearing in the Israeli media to sound off their demand to release the pre-Oslo prisoners.  After all, they explained, these people are old already.

Anyone who saw the footage of the terrorists who were released this week knows very well that this was cheap propaganda.  The receptions held for the freed prisoners featured forty-year-old murderers who wouldn’t have any difficulty returning to terrorism, or at least recruiting the next generation.  That’s the business on which another “old” person, Samir Quntar, recently visited Gaza.  As long as these people were in jail, the terrorists organizations didn’t have enough professional manpower for organization and recruitment.

Following the interview, our bereaved families began looking into the matter, but a decoy was quickly dispatched to distract us, with MK Ofir Akunis appearing in the Knesset to announce that there was no plan to free terrorists.

Today Akunis says he was misled.  But that doesn’t stop him from defending the man who sent him—Benjamin Netanyahu.

And what of Netanyahu?  He fell under the pressure coming from Kerry.

But then why did he send Akunis to make that announcement?  Why not accept pressure from the right too?

Whatever the case, in the end Netanyahu buckled and paid out, as usual.  To be sure, this was not a precondition.  This was advance payment.

The Security Cabinet did everything in its power to make good on the first 26-murderer installment during the long night before talks began.  At midnight I received a call from senior figures at the Justice Ministry with a request that I forward to the families with whom we had filed our petition the message that the cabinet had reached the “disappointing” decision to release their loved ones’ murderers.  My interlocutors wanted to send me the list of of victims per murderer.

I refused.

“Tell the ministers,” I said, “that we’ll do it in the morning.”

“But the information is about to be released,” they said.  “It wouldn’t do for them to hear about it from the media.”

“Then delay the announcement.”

I requested.  I demanded.  But I didn’t realize what was the ministers’ “problem”: the requirement that a release take place no less than 48 hours after the announcement.  And if they made the announcement any later, the Palestinians wouldn’t receive the payment on time and the talks would be delayed by a few hours.

In brief, Minister Livni, who had received my message, decided to reject our request.  The bereaved parents were to have another sleepless night.

They have plenty of sleepless nights as it is.

Not Listening

Then there’s another person who works for the Palestinians.  This one sits on the Supreme Court.  When Abbas and Kerry pressure Netanyahu, they know that at the critical moment, the court will come to their rescuse and refuse to interfere with letting out the murderers.

Murders committed?  Sentences handed down by courts?  You wouldn’t know it.

Without a doubt, all the legal authorities are dominated by political interests.  And yet this time we held out hope that the court would intervene, because this time all the red lines were to be violated.  For the first time ever, payment was being made before negotiations even had begun.  Murderers were being released as a gesture—another first.  And even so, the judges were not bothered.

Who, then, is not eligible for special treatment?  The bereaved parents, of course.  When I asked His Honor Justice Grunis to hear out the bereaved families, he refused—unlike his predecessors, who had big enough hearts to listen to the families at just such difficult times.

Then came the outburst by Miriam Tobul and Dr. Gila Molcho.

Miriam and her husband, whose son was murdered, once spent Shabbat with me across from the Prime Minister’s Office, back in the Rabin days, demonstrating for a harder line on terrorism.  Rabin let us in twice and heard her out.

Grunis did not care to listen.  He did not understand that standing in front of him was a mother fighting to keep her son’s memory alive.

Miriam’s screams echoed throughout the media alongside the screams and dripping tears coming from Gila.

Gila lost her brother, Ian Feinberg.  Ian, with his faith in the goodness of people, had served in the JAG Corps in Gaza.  After the Oslo Accords broke out, he was sent by the European Union to help the Palestinians set up a system of taxation there.

It didn’t help.  The EU-hired guards murdered him.  And now Abbas has no problem demanding their release.  After all, he was a Jew.  He was worthy of death.

The EU, Kerry, and the Government of Israel also don’t have any problem with that.  The scum have returned home.

“What message is the Israeli government sending here?” Gila screamed, crying, standing there alongside her family members, all of them Zionists who made aliya from South Africa.

In the end, Grunis gave a signal, and the guards removed the bereaved families from the courtroom.

When I read the verdict, I finally understood: the Israeli Supreme Court has accepted the idea that the Palestinians have been pushing: murdering Jews is okay as long as it’s done in the service of the goals of Palestinian terrorism.  Then it stops being a concern of the court and becomes merely a political issue.

The court could easily have put an end to this judicial farce and the creeping erosion of the rule of law: “There are judges in Jerusalem, and jailed terrorists are off-limits to political negotiations.”  The court could have explained that, in the name of justice, it could not allow this to happen.

But the judges suddenly turned humble.  Aside from a few words of condolences to the families, the injured victims and mourning families were sent home, knowing that the murders were headed home to festive receptions, while their victims remained under the ground.

Legalisms to the Rescue

Just a few hours before the terrorists were released, we thought we were saved.  It turned out that eight of the murderers had committed murders after the Oslo Accord, and therefore did not satisfy the criteria set and discussed by the government.  For Palestinians who see terrorism and murder as part of a legitimate struggle, the Oslo Accord is to supposed to represent the date when the fighters laid down their weapons, and those already jailed should be freed.

Rabin, though, did not see fit to free them, despite signing the Oslo Accord, because they had blood on their hands.  Rabin had been around for the Jibril Deal, the traumatic release of murderers in exchange for three IDF forces that he had seen through along with Peres and Shamir.  Rabin had seen how those freed had led the First Intifada, and he had no interest in repeating the mistake.

Bibi, though, was convinced by Kerry and Abbas to do just that.

Journalist Hagai Segal discovered that Chaim “Chaimu” Mizrachi, a Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer player who became religious and moved to Bet El, was murdered a month-and-a-half after the accord had been signed.  Other Jews also had been murdered after the Oslo Accord, and their murderers also wanted to take part in the festivities. 

Take the murderers of Isaac Rotenberg, a Holocaust survivor who worked as a plasterer and manual laborer and was murdered with axes by laborers who worked in his building.  Take the murderers of Moshe Becker, who made aliya from Europe and was murdered in his orchard.

Segal sent us the document he was using to date the signing of the Oslo Accord: a notebook of government protocols that recorded that day as 9 September 1993.

In their verdict, the judges who had put away Mizrachi’s murderers had made their own note of that date: “This abominable murder took place just one-and-a-half months after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, which was supposed to herald a new age for Jewish-Arab relations in the Middle East …”

Still, I thought, maybe the idea of releasing only pre-Oslo terrorists hadn’t been discussed with the cabinet ministers, but only broadcast and disseminated to the media?

I called Minister Uri Ariel.  He confirmed that at the cabinet meeting, the topic at hand had been the release of pre-Oslo terrorists only.

The families appealed once again to the Supreme Court. But the terrorists were saved by cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, formerly the chief military advocate general of the IDF.  He counts from the same date as the PA, namely the date on which the Oslo Accord came into force.

Murdering Jews is okay as long as it’s done in the service of the goals of Palestinian terrorism. Then it stops being a concern of the court and becomes merely a political issue.
Up until that date, it was okay to murder.  Granted, there had been a ceremony in Washington.  Granted, there had been letters exchanged between Rabin and Arafat to the effect that there would be no more violence.  But the date that appeared in the government protocol was significant neither for the murderers and their organizations nor for our legal commentators.

At the end of the day, Netanyahu and Mandelblit have some questions to answer:

What is the meaning of this burst of generosity, of giving the Palestinians whatever they demand?  What is this unbearable flippancy with which you relate to the memory of victims whose murderers don’t even reflect the spirit of the agreement with the Palestinians?  Why are you looking for excuses to release them, insead of doing the opposite?

Lt.-Col. (ret.) Meir Indor is the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association

First published in Makor Rishon (print edition)

Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg