Twelve years ago, the Jewish nation was rocked by a terror bombing that now
symbolizes the second intifada more than any other attack.
the charred shell of Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant accompany countless articles
about terrorism, even if their text makes no mention of that specific
The Sbarro massacre was significant for several
Its 15 victims included seven adults and eight children. Among
them was a decimated family: a mother, a father and three of their eight
Another victim, a woman pregnant with her first child, was
herself an only child. One of the wounded, who should be counted among the dead,
has lain comatose ever since, leaving her toddler motherless.
victim was our daughter.
In their last moments on earth, the 15 victims
were enjoying a light lunch on a hot, summer’s afternoon in the bustling center
of Israel’s capital.
Ahlam Tamimi, the main perpetrator of this Hamas
massacre, bore an incongruous profile: a young and attractive woman, a student
of journalism at a Palestinian university and a newsreader for a Palestinian TV
This was a particularly cruel, gruesome and shocking act. Its
iconic status is not surprising. Sbarro acquired fresh notoriety in 2011 when
Tamimi, who had confessed to all charges and was convicted and sentenced to 16
life terms, walked free. Israel’s prime minister released her under pressure
from Hamas to win the return of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. She was
repatriated to her family in Jordan where she has lived since. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu inexplicably calls this gift an “exile.”
Netanyahu succumbed to additional pressure from this murderer herself and from
her fiancé – another murderer released in the Schalit deal.
had been confined to the West Bank under the written terms of his release, that
had been affirmed by Netanyahu. While they are in the West Bank, released
prisoners can be watched and re-arrested for any new terrorist activities. To
date, tens of Palestinians freed in the Schalit deal have ended up back behind
Israeli bars via this route. Netanyahu waived this condition for the
With no quid pro quo, indeed, for no apparent reason, our prime
minister allowed the terrorist to move to Jordan where shortly afterward the two
killers were married in a high-profile, Hamas-sponsored extravaganza. Nearly two
years after the Schalit deal, we are still desperately seeking
To watch and hear our child’s murderer on the Internet
addressing adoring crowds throughout the Arab world; hosting a TV show; boasting
of the massacre she planned and executed; smiling about the number of children
she killed; and promising that, if she could, she would repeat it – this is an
Elsewhere, parents of murdered children who pursue
justice garner sympathy. One such American couple was described by a journalist
as “compassionate” because they sought life imprisonment for the murderer rather
than the death penalty.
My husband and I are also determined to see
Tamimi back behind bars. But nobody calls us compassionate.
the adjective we hear more often.
Fellow Israelis from both the Right and
the Left have either ignored or criticized our efforts. The word “justice”
rarely features in their arguments.
It is an open secret that many
Western liberals see terrorists who have Israeli blood on their hands as
something less than “real” murderers. Why, as appears to be the case, have
Israelis adopted that view? When did they begin to distinguish between murderers
who do not shout “Allahu akbar” and those who do? The fact that Israelis look
askance at us can be directly related to our leader’s example. When Netanyahu
freed hundreds of Palestinian murderers in 2011 while declining to ever meet
with the victim families, he set the tone for the country.
is now poised for a Schalit Deal Redux – minus the return of an Israeli captive.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with American support, is
demanding the release of a further 120 Palestinian prisoners before resuming
negotiations with Israel.
The new list includes many terrorists with the
blood of innocents on their hands, but you will not hear that from our leaders.
As Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs and a close ally of
Netanyahu’s, conceded last week: “...there will be heavyweight prisoners who
have been in jail for tens of years.”
As we all know, in Israel one does
not get such a lengthy sentence for illegal parking or even the odd armed
robbery. “Heavyweight” is the new euphemism employed to sterilize this abhorrent
We can safely dismiss any presumption that our prime minister
agonized over or deeply pondered this fraught decision: According to The New
York Times it was “... negotiated in a series of hurried telephone calls with
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday evening as Mr. Kerry was
eager to get home but determined not to leave empty-handed after six visits in
Netanyahu had already plunged so far down the slippery
slope of compliance that neither Abbas nor Kerry had a tough adversary on their
hands. “Putty” is the more apt term. The only objections to this impending
concession have been from the families of the victims. The wider public seems to
have been neutralized by Netanyahu’s attitude.
In a recent New York Times
column about the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, Frank Bruni wrote that
decisions made “at the highest levels of our government... set a tone... send a
signal. They alter the climate of what’s considered just and what’s not, of
what’s permissible and what’s intolerable, and that change ripples into every
last corner of American life, shaping people’s very destinies.”
Netanyahu doesn’t approach the league of US Supreme Court judges, his
willingness to release cold-blooded murderers has sent “ripples into every last
corner of Israeli life.”
If enough Israelis wake up to the dangers of
such a devil-may-care approach toward murder and justice, there may be hope for
our society. If they warn Netanyahu that another Schalit-style release will come
with a stiff political price attached, he may reconsider. He is, after all, just
Let’s remind him that murderers serving one or multiple
life sentences cannot be freed. Ever. Killers are not pawns in the hands of
politicians trampling our judiciary.
Righting this injustice will not
bring our precious child back. It will not even mitigate our grief in the
slightest – our critics have been eager to point this out. But the travesty of
justice deepens our pain beyond endurance.
The writer is a freelance
writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the
2001 Sbarro restaurant bombing. With her husband, Arnold, she founded the Malki
Foundation (www.kerenmalki.org); it provides concrete support for Israeli
families of all faiths who care at home for a special-needs child.