ramallah prisoner release 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Each time Israel prepares to let loose convicted arch-terrorists with blood on
their hands, families of the victims and Almagor, the association that
represents them, appeal against the impending releases to the High Court of
Justice. It is a hackneyed ritual whose results are known in advance. There is
never any variation and therefore never any real likelihood of a different
None of the participants in this tragically rerun melodrama has
any delusions about how it will end.
Of course, our selectively
interventionist Supreme Court’s record is full of precedents where it overruled
government decisions. Nonetheless, the state recurrently couches its arguments
of this issue on the need to uphold the executive branch’s decisions on various
diplomatic deals. These supposedly takes precedence over prolonged and
punctilious legal procedures and trials in which the perpetrators were duly
convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable.
These defendants were
accorded full rights and the convictions can stand up to the most stringent
legal scrutiny by any objective observer.
Yet these convicts are in the
final analysis not treated as convicts but at most as prisoners of war whose
incarceration is subject to give-and-take between the combatant sides. If the
entire furor indeed revolved around POWs, there would be ample legal logic to
the state’s claims. Enemy troops captured in the course of battle can be held
until such a time as a mutually agreed swap is arranged. They are not criminals,
were never tried in court and are by no definition convicts.
patently is not the case with convicted terrorists, especially ones who also
happen to be Israeli citizens.
In their case, in addition to homicide
they committed treason. They had their day in court and were sentenced – in many
cases to multiple life sentences.
Their legal status as convicts should
put them entirely out of bounds for either swaps (as in the Gilad Schalit case)
or to express “goodwill gestures” as payment for kick-starting the current
negotiating round with the Palestinian Authority.
considerations should be as much of a non-starter as criteria for premature
release as it would be in a hypothetical case in which the government would
decide to imprison anyone because of diplomatic undertakings.
unthinkable in our legal culture that a government would put given persons
behind bars as “a confidence- building measure” to appease that foreign ruler.
By any reasonable yardstick, this would make a mockery of our legal system and
The reverse is also true. Citing diplomatic
expedience as the rationale for absolving cold-blooded mass-murderers from
serving out their terms undermines our judiciary and independence in exactly the
In effect, we are giving power to a foreign ruler – PA
President Mahmoud Abbas – to determine how long the murderers of Israelis would
serve. In these circumstances, we might as well close our courts and leave
everything up to Abbas.
If the murderers of entire families are
arbitrarily set free by his say-so, it is not inconceivable that he would
eventually demand the liberation of Amjad Mahmad Awad and Hakim Mazen Awad of
Awarta, who in 2011 butchered five members of the Fogel family in Itamar –
mother, father and their three children.
The Awads, who decapitated a
three-month-old girl, are already celebrated as heroes and role models in the
PA-controlled media, schools and mosques.
Those whom Abbas now demands
released, to buy his entry into the talks, were guilty of no less bloodcurdling
slaughters, even if these took place years earlier.
The fact that Abbas’s
influence now extends to Israeli-Arabs is most disturbing as it creates a clear
precedent of incontrovertible discrimination. No wonder several Jews convicted
of terrorist acts are already preparing to petition the courts to cut short
their sentences as well.
If the sentences of some Israelis can be
commuted, why not those of others? Surely, the court cannot formally favor Arabs
over Jews, as that undercuts the principle of equality before the law.