Gaza woman walks past posters of Palestinian prisoners.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinian terrorists, their hands red with the blood of civilians they
murdered, were expected to be released early Tuesday morning and hailed as
heroes in Ramallah.
These terrorists, like the 52 already released, and
26 more that Israel is scheduled to let go by the end of April, are the price
Israel agreed to pay last July to get the Palestinians back to the negotiation
The price the Palestinians paid: agreeing to put on hold its
efforts to gain entrance as a state in various international bodies.
terrorists’ release should be seen by the world as an indication of Israel’s
seriousness about trying to reach a peace deal. It should be seen as a huge and
excruciatingly painful price to pay. But it won’t.
Instead, the world
will focus on the Ministerial Legislative Committee’s decision on Sunday – a
largely symbolic move that has little chance of becoming law any time soon – to
annex the Jordan Valley.
And, of course, the world will soon focus on an
expected upcoming announcement of further construction in the
Instead of the release of the terrorists showing how far
Israel is willing to go, a purely symbolic vote will be seen as a sign that
Israel does not really want peace, and instead is only interested in throwing
one obstacle after another into its path.
Any international goodwill, or
any international appreciation of the sacrifices Israel is willing to pay, has
been overshadowed by the Jordan Valley vote. And it will be even more
overshadowed in a few days when the government announces plans to build new
housing units in east Jerusalem neighborhoods and the settlements, mostly in the
This is what happened when Israel released the first
group of prisoners in August, and again when it released the second batch in
Each release was accompanied by settlement plan
Israel says it has scrupulously abided by the terms of
entering into the negotiations.
Though this may be true, and though
Israel made no commitment to freeze construction, it matters little in the
capitals of Europe, where the focus will be on the settlements, not on the fact
that Israel was willing to release terrorists just to restart
Moreover, this time, the expected announcement of settlement
construction was preceded by an announcement two weeks ago that such an
announcement was forthcoming. This pre-announcement triggered
There will surely be plenty more once the actual declaration
is made, and then – as is always the case – there will be more censure during
each stage of the planning and building process. It takes special artistry to
not only announce the plans, ensuring harsh criticism, but to announce the
announcement, ensuring a double scoop of condemnation.
ministerial vote and the expected settlement construction announcement can be
explained as the products of Israeli domestic politics.
Binyamin Netanyahu needs construction announcements to follow the release of
prisoners to quiet down the right flank both in his party and in the
The Likud ministers and MKs pushing for the Jordan Valley
annexation move needed it to quiet down their constituents, who will likely be
displeased when US Secretary of State John Kerry unfurls a document expected to
lay out in broad strokes the principles of an agreement with the Palestinians
that is likely to entail deep Israeli concessions.
considerations are real, and initiating certain steps because of them is
legitimate. But the consequences of these steps should also be kept in mind, and
the immediate shortterm consequence is that Israel is taking a heart-wrenching
step in releasing terrorists but doesn’t get anywhere close to the rightful
credit it deserves for this in the international arena.