... the Israeli government committed many of the mistakes that a state could commit in the war against terror. Its fundamental mistake... was to capitulate to the terrorists’ political demands... It released thousands of jailed terrorists...
Why is such a move, which the American broker would probably not agree to at all if the terrorists had killed US citizens, let alone as a condition for starting negotiations, become a legitimate condition because Palestinians are demanding it of Israel? – Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, in rejecting (??) a petition to prevent Tuesday’s release of 26 convicted Palestinians murderers, August 12.
many of whom promptly took up their weapons and returned to ply their trade. – Binyamin Netanyahu, Fighting Terrorism, 2001
... we cannot gloss over the colossal capitulation of our prime minister... Binyamin Netanyahu has degenerated from merely disappointing to downright dangerous.
– Rabbi Stewart Weiss, The Jerusalem Post, August 8.
The shameful release of over a score of Palestinian murderers, conducted in the thick of night as surreptitiously as possible, is the culmination of an ongoing process that has stripped the government of any residual shred of moral authority that it may have had up to now.
It can no longer reasonably expect to command the respect of the nation or to retain its trust. The Netanyahu government is irretrievably bereft of credibility – in the eyes of allies and adversaries alike.
Indefensible, inexcusable and incomprehensible
The move is indefensible – whichever way you slice it.
It is inexcusable on moral grounds and incomprehensible on substantive operational ones.
It has left many in Israel – and many of its supporters abroad – utterly bewildered. Perhaps the most perplexed are those who tend to be supportive of Netanyahu.
Typical of the confusion left in its wake were the sentiments in a recent Facebook exchange posted by Karyn Simon Basle: “Many Israeli’s have criticized Bibi for caving.
I have supported him forever and as much as I disagree with the release of MURD[ER]ERS....I always felt he must have had good reason to agree to the prisoner release. I still believe there is much going on behind doors that we don’t know. Maybe I am naive but I just don’t understand why Netanyahu would jeopardize Israel’s safety.”
I am willing to bet that when Karyn’s long-standing support for Netanyahu began, he was ardently advocating policies diametrically opposed to those he has recently embarked upon, and was powerfully and persuasively warning of the dire perils entailed in adopting his current course.
I am quite willing to concede that Karyn is probably right. It is quite likely that “much is going on behind doors that we don’t know” and that Netanyahu “had good reason to agree to the prisoner release.” But though this might be true it is entirely irrelevant.
Let me be quite categorical about this: No matter what was going on behind closed doors, no matter how good Netanyahu’s reasons were for making the decision that he did, the reasons for not doing so were better.Bemused befuddled and bewildered
Predictably, the High Court found there were no grounds for judicial intervention and refused to annul the government decision. However, from the tenor of remarks from some of the justices (see introductory excerpt), an informed layman might be excused for wondering why they did not invoke principles such as “extreme unreasonableness” or “gross violation of natural justice” as grounds for preventing the release.
The bewilderment Karyn expressed in her Facebook posting was clearly reflected in another seemingly exasperated interrogative from Justice Rubinstein: “Why is this being done now as a prelude to negotiations – a move I believe is unprecedented – and not later, if at all, as a result of headway in the talks?” Why, indeed? And why did the High Court justices not deem the release an unconscionable governmental perversion of justice and an unacceptable abuse of executive discretion? After all, none of the designated releasees were incarcerated without trial by administrative decree or under preemptive detention. All were convicted, unrepentant killers, sentenced after due process, their acts of barbaric butchery undisputed. None of their victims were enemy combatants, or even collateral civilian casualties in attacks on military installations/personnel. They were all targeted civilians, including seniors, women and children. Several of the killers exploited their personal acquaintance with their victims to perpetrate their homicidal acts.
And what was the intended political quid pro quo, lofty policy goal or vital national interest that allegedly justified this unprecedented Israeli largesse and dissuaded the High Court from intervening in the executive branch decision, as it has done in many previous cases, deeming them “disproportionate” – and hence invalid? Certainly nothing the justices seemed able to discern.Meager payoffs; myriad pitfalls
It did not take long for the devastating potential of the detrimental and dysfunctional decision to emerge.
Last week, with the egregious capitulation under his belt, John Kerry convened a meeting with leaders of the America Jewish Committee in the White House, to underscore presidential endorsement, and basically conveyed that Israel had better continue to concede – or else! After all, how are we to interpret the reports (Jerusalem Post, August 9) that Kerry warned the group of “negative consequences” for Israel if the parties fail to clinch peace? Note: “negative consequences” for Israel, not – perish the thought – for the Palestinians.
Just in case there should be any doubt as the message conveyed, along comes White House mouthpiece Jeffrey Goldberg (“Israel Faces Deepening Isolation, Kerry Warns,” August 12.) and informs us “Kerry... has warned Netanyahu... that if the current peace talks bear no fruit, Israel may soon be facing an international delegitimization campaign – in his words – ‘on steroids.’” This makes the substantive outcome – or lack thereof – of the negotiations irrelevant. After all, Kerry has already informed Israel that if the talks are unproductive, Israel will face massive retribution.
What more could the Palestinians need to hear to endorse and intensify their intransigence? One can almost hear them rubbing their hands in glee, while digging their collective heels in with obdurate obstinacy.
For all intents and purposes Israel has institutionalized its inability/unwillingness to hold firm on any issue. Now that it has shown that it will comply with the most operationally absurd and morally egregious demands, all they (the Palestinians) need to do is keep pressing for evermore absurd and egregious demands.
If Israel caves in, fine. If it does not, it will be delegitimized “steroidally.”
This then is the depressing lie of the political landscape in the foreseeable future following the Netanyahu government’s new strategy of surrender: Win-win for the Palestinians; lose-lose for Israel.
Way to go, Bibi Dealing with delegitimization
For a (refreshing) change, Goldberg actually makes some cogent points this time. He writes: “Kerry thinks the one thing Netanyahu fears as much as Iran’s nuclear program is the growing power of the international movement that seeks to isolate... and demonize his country.”
Goldberg continues: “... Netanyahu... is worried that this campaign will erode Israel’s ability to defend itself. The theory is simple: A country seen as illegitimate...
by Western powers, will have little standing if it is forced to retaliate against sustained attacks from groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah... Netanyahu thinks that the campaign to delegitimize Israel could force Western powers to rein in Israel... before it has the chance to defend itself... Netanyahu’s two fears are related. Israel will find it increasingly difficult to one day act against the Iranian nuclear program if it is hobbled by the hostility of the international community.”
Goldberg/Kerry are right in diagnosing that Netanyahu (and those close to him) greatly fear international delegitimization. And so they should.
For, as I have argued in previous columns, it is perhaps the gravest strategic threat confronting Israel today – at least on a par with the Iranian menace, and in fact, acts to intensify the latter. Delegitimization does impinge on the nation’s ability to physically defend itself. For not only does increasing delegitimization make Israel an increasingly legitimate target, but it makes its endeavors to deal with adversaries increasingly illegitimate.
But a nation cannot seek legitimization by abandoning its vital interests. It must do so by legitimizing those interests through effective conduct of its diplomacy.Alternatives to appeasement
Netanyahu has been in office for almost half-adecade, during which he has done virtually nothing to establish robust, assertive and effective mechanisms, with adequate resources and a clear mandate, to confront, curtail and counter the delegitimization phenomenon.
This neglect, rather than any particular instance of failure of resolve, is his greatest transgression and gravest failing.
Instead of committing massive resources to the defense and promotion of Israel’s image abroad, he has allotted a mere pittance, and left the country almost defenseless against a well-oiled, well-funded assault on its legitimacy, which has critically jeopardized the government’s decision-making freedom.
With a GDP of almost a quarter-trillion dollars, a fraction of 1 percent would provide up to $1 billion for a strategic diplomacy offensive for world opinion, targeting US campuses and liberal Jewish communities and exposing the brutal nature of Israel’s adversaries.
In addition to displaying cartoon bombs on the UN podium, a formidable task force – comprised of top experts on Islam – could be set up to drive home to global opinion-makers the dangers of a nuclear Iran and the implications of the theological underpinnings of the regime and to mobilize international opinion against Tehran’s drive for weaponized nuclear capability.
But inexplicably, these eminently viable alternatives to appeasement have been studiously ignored.Justifying Judeocide
But perhaps worse than the pernicious practical policy ramifications that this odious release of murderers is almost certain to have, is the appalling symbolic significance that it conveys – to Jews, Arabs and the world at large.
For stripped to basics, it conveys a message that Judeocide is justified.
It reflects a disregard – or at least a diminished regard – for the value of Jewish lives, and does so in a dual sense: Both toward the known victims of the past and toward the unknown victims of the future.
With regard to the past: It cheapens the value of Jewish blood, because it signals that those who shed it will be exonerated; that even the most heinous slaughter of Jews can be overlooked and its perpetrators pardoned; that Jewish lives and their memory are in the final analysis a “barterable” commodity.
In a recent blog entry, David Horovitz, former Jerusalem Post editor in chief, succinctly encapsulated the futility and foolishness of the government decision: “Only Israel could be pressured by the free world to release convicted killers before the ends of their sentences (something that the US, UK and others would not dream of doing), agree to do so at the start rather than the culmination of peace negotiations, and still wind up looking like the bad guy the next morning.”
With regard to the future: Given precedent and probability, it is a statistical certainty that some of the releasees will revert to acts of terror that result in the death of Israelis.
In the past, scores of Israelis have been killed and maimed by terrorists released in “deals.” There is little reason to believe that this time will different.
Accordingly, the government’s decision is conceptually tantamount to firing a gun into a crowd without knowing who will be hit, but knowing that someone certainly will be.Mumbo-jumbo gobbledygook
Jonathan Tobin, in his August 13 Commentary blog, writes: “... history shows us that Israel not only never gets credit for being reasonable and making concessions, it actually suffers from the process.”
He is of course quite right. No mumbo-jumbo gobbledygook about the “national interest” or cryptic allusions to “wider strategic considerations” can justify the release of over a score of Judeocidal Palestinian murderers. It is merely the result of poor, weak-willed government on the part of people who could and should know – and do – better, much better.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)