Lying in bed, with a few minutes to go before I had to get up, I was listening
to the round-up of newspaper headlines on the radio at the beginning of the
It’s how I heard that among the 26 prisoners to be released on
Tuesday as a gesture aimed at forwarding the peace process was one of the
murderers “who had killed a couple in Wadi Kelt.”
With only that fragment
of information to go on, I lay there wondering whether it was the killer of
Revital Seri, whose path had crossed with mine at the Hebrew University where we
were both students at the time of her death in October 1984, or whether it was
Edna Harari, the 22-year-old sister of a friend, killed a year later. Both of
them had been hiking with a boyfriend, enjoying the simple pleasures in life,
when they were attacked.
Then I wondered what did it matter which
murderer of which couple was about to be let out of jail, considering the killer
of the other pair inevitably would be freed later on. This was the second of
four planned prisoner releases, and altogether 104 terrorists are expected to go
free by the end of April, the scheduled conclusion of the ninemonth
In any case, I wasn’t sure I could call either family to
express the right emotion, not so much sympathy as condolences. For the
families, their loved ones have been killed a second time.
The very term
“prisoner release” in this context is disturbing.
This is not an
“exchange,” not even a lopsided “swap,” about which I can feel that at least
some good is going to come out of it. This is a so-called “gesture of goodwill.”
Apparently this is what it takes to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating
table. Instead of using the release of terrorists as part of the bargaining
process, something that would take place after the successful conclusion of
talks, we’re expected to let them literally get away with murder in the hope of
kick-starting and maintaining discussions.
Some diplomats and politicians
refer to it as a “confidence- building measure.” But the “confidence” is found
only on one side: The Palestinians have reason to believe that the longer they
hold out before actually seriously negotiating, the more murderers will be
released from Israeli jails.
At least some measure of pretense was
dropped with this week’s release. The Palestinian prisoners were not required to
sign a commitment to refrain from future acts of terror. Evidently I’m not the
only one who doubted the value of their word. And in any case, several
previously released prisoners – including some of those swapped for Gilad
Schalit two years ago – have since been rearrested after returning to their
Apart from the families of the victims, my heart goes out
to the relatives of the soldiers killed or wounded arresting the murderers. They
must also be asking: Was it worth it? It gives a whole new meaning to the once
firmly held tenet: “Don’t negotiate with terrorists.” We don’t negotiate,
indeed. We just let them go and keep the country hostage instead.
must have been the only country this week letting lethal terrorists out of jail
en masse. It was, as far as I know, also the only Western country which suffered
missile attacks this week. I’m pretty sure I would have heard if southern
England, say, had been hit by an enemy rocket rather than a storm.
Bones cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen put it: “Gaza is firing missiles again at
Israeli cities and towns, but it’s no big deal... And it won’t be a big deal
until Israel fires back.”
The prisoner release dealt my usual philosophy
of looking for a silver lining a serious blow. I tried to find the positive side
to the deal, but rarely had the term “playing the devil’s advocate” seemed so
Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, a former IDF chief
of staff, tried to explain the prisoner release saying: “This is not a
black-and-white situation. Things are complex, obligating us to be responsible
and prudent, and also to see the long term.”
Many pundits posited that
the prisoner deal was the price for the announcement of furthering construction
plans in Jerusalem neighborhoods over the pre-1967 Green Line.
make it even less palatable, given that in the past Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu announced a 10-month building freeze as a “gesture of goodwill” to get
the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. It was an opportunity squandered
by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas.
Tying the construction in
the capital to the peace talks is questionable; tying it to the mass release of
murderers should have been unthinkable.
The prisoners were given a
festive homecoming by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Abbas gave each
released terrorist money to start building a new life, and the bachelors already
have potential brides being lined up. This might be considered poor consolation
for the 70 or more celestial virgins they would have been promised as “martyrs”
had they been killed by the IDF instead of merely arrested.
prisoner releases, I have noted that no matter how many convicts are let go, the
Palestinian Authority is not going to build an Australia with them.
week that quip seemed singularly out of place.
In the early hours of
October 26, five Jews walking home from a Shabbat meal were attacked in Sydney’s
Bondi Beach area, simply for being identifiably Jewish.
The assault, in
which the victims suffered fractures and in one case severe concussion, was
broadly condemned by the Australian government and the general public.
asked a childhood friend, who emigrated Down Under more than 30 years ago,
shortly before I moved to Israel, for her response. Nominated for the Pride of
Australia Medal, Lynn Santer, also known as Auntie Lynn, the author of the
series of Magical Scarecrow books encouraging children to read, replied: “There
is no place for racial intolerance in the multicultural free democratic society
of this beautiful land called Australia. There is no place for violence and
there is no place for ignorant thugs who seek to harm and harass peaceful people
just going about their business.
“Kudos to the members of the public who
stepped in to stop this brawl. This should be a lesson to others who seem to
think misplaced hatred is in any way acceptable.
They will not only feel
the full force of the law but realize the Australian people will not accept or
tolerate such behavior.”
Another friend, who moved to Sydney from Israel
a few years ago, described it as “scary.”
Some members of the community
noted that local Jews have been victims of verbal abuse and community property
has been vandalized, but this was the first physical attack of this nature and
Most seemed confident that Australian law enforcement would
punish the perpetrators.
Had they killed Israelis in Israel, instead of
attacking Jews in Sydney, they could hope for, if not a pardon, at least freedom
– with world opinion behind them.
As if playing a warped version of
Monopoly, the Israelis are banned from building houses and hotels while the
Palestinians not only receive a “Get out of jail free” card, they can collect
$200 on the way.
The writer is the editor of
The International Jerusalem