US Secretary of State John Kerry should acknowledge his role in encouraging Israel to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, several MKs said Monday.
Kerry condemned the kidnapping of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach, calling it a “despicable terrorist act.” He spoke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and encouraged them to work together on the kidnapping crisis.
But the MKs expressed disappointment that the Americans did not acknowledge their own role in causing the crisis. The MKs noted that American officials, led by Kerry, pressured Israel to free Palestinian prisoners as part of the recently suspended diplomatic process. One thousand members of the Hamas terrorist organization were released by Israel in exchange for Gilad Schalit.
“They pushed for releasing more and more terrorists, and the kidnappings were the result,” said Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck, who heads the Knesset’s Land of Israel caucus.
“But the Americans never take responsibility for anything.
They prefer to just sling mud at Israel. They would never accept their children being kidnapped on the way home from school and their mothers worrying.”
Struck said MKs warned US Ambassador Dan Shapiro of the consequences of prisoner releases during a recent closed-door meeting with the caucus. She said she also blamed her own government for caving in to American pressure to release the terrorists.
“The idea of releasing terrorists was morally repugnant,” Feiglin said. “I understand those who are angry at the US.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said it was now clear to everyone that releasing Palestinian prisoners did not contribute to either peace or security. He took credit for preventing the fourth round of Palestinian prisoner releases by threatening to quit his post if it took place.
“The US pressured for the releases because they thought it was right,” Danon said.
“They were wrong but the responsibility is ours.”
Following the kidnapping, Danon wrote Congresswoman Kay Granger, who chairs the influential State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, urging her to respond to the kidnapping by ending United States aid to the PA. Danon has been in contact with Granger since the Palestinian unity deal was initialed, and his associates said the Texas Republican has been supportive of his efforts.
“The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, prohibits American support for the Palestinian Authority if its government is affiliated with Hamas,” Danon wrote. “President Abbas has made his choice in forming a government with Hamas. I therefore urge you and your colleagues to implement this important law as soon possible and send a clear message to President Abbas.”
Labor MK Nachman Shai said it should have been clear that the more prisoners would be released, the greater the appetite of the terrorists would be to try to bring about more releases. Shai said he blamed the Israeli government for preferring releasing prisoners to freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.
“The Americans had good intentions, though the results were bad,” said Labor MK Hilik Bar, who heads the Knesset’s two-state lobby. “I don’t blame the Americans. It was Bayit Yehudi that preferred releasing prisoners, even with blood on their hands, rather than freeze settlements.”
Yesh Atid MK Ronen Hoffman said he blamed opposition MKs like Bar for visiting Abbas, strengthening him, and increasing his demands.
He noted that his party refused to join delegations to Abbas that Bar organized, because even dovish MKs like himself believed it was wrong to meet with Palestinian officials outside the context of negotiations.
“For the opposition MKs to say that we should not have released terrorists is hypocrisy, because they themselves pressured Israel to release them,” Hoffman said.