French President Nicolas Sarkozy 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
Word from the Élysée Palace is that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was ticked
off at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for not paying homage to him when
welcoming Gilad Schalit home. That was why Sarkozy later castigated
Netanyahu as a liar.
But now Sarkozy is after a more tangible bonus from
the Schalit deal. He is demanding no less than the early release of a terrorist
because he also holds a French passport (besides an east Jerusalem blue ID
Salah Hassan Hamouri, a recidivist Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine terrorist, was convicted in 2005 for plotting the
assassination of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Sarkozy soon drew an
analogy between Hamouri and Schalit, both of whom are dual French
Hamouri is anyway due to be released soon, but Sarkozy,
apparently eager to garner glory, wants him to be included among the 550
convicts that Israel has undertaken to set loose in the second phase of the
Indeed so eager is Sarkozy to derive credit from Hamouri’s
release that he sent his ambassador here, Christophe Bigot, to personally appeal
to Yosef to sanction the deal. Whether or not Hamouri is released as part of the
Schalit swap or separately won’t at this point make much actual difference –
except for to Sarkozy’s prestige.
The French president, we may safely
presume, isn’t motivated by a zealous quest for justice as much as by the need
to please the increasingly vocal and powerful Muslim lobby in his
Pro forma Sarkozy’s line is that Hamouri “is capable of
rehabilitation.” This begs the obvious question of how he knows
Hamouri, head of the Popular Front in Jerusalem, was arrested on
March 13, 2005. According to his own confession and those of his
co-conspirators, Hamouri, along with Musa Darwish and Muhammad al-Sheikh plotted
several terrorist attacks, prime among them against Yosef.
Yosef’s Har Nof neighborhood in the capital well, having worked in a nearby
grocery. The three Palestinians conducted reconnaissance there more than once.
Hamouri was to zoom by on a motorcycle just as Yosef entered his building and
spray him with M-16 fire. The others were to rush into the house with
Kalashnikovs and grenades, and hit the guards and anyone else around.
a plea bargain, Hamouri was sentenced to seven years. Although his projected
atrocity could have resulted in a bloodbath, Sarkozy persisted over the years in
drawing a moral equivalence between Schalit and Hamouri.
to free the abducted Schalit but as a counterbalance sought to subvert the
Israeli judicial process. Not only was his intrusion impertinent, but it helped
ingrain a gross distortion.
The very comparison between a blameless
soldier kidnapped from his country’s own side of the border and an active
terrorist in one of the most extreme of organizations is bogus and offensive.
Schalit had done no harm. Hamouri planned a massacre.
Sarkozy’s spurious analogies run deeper. The juxtaposition between holding an
innocent hostage for ransom and the legitimate prosecution of a defendant
scrupulously accorded every right of due process should outrage not only all
Israelis but also all freethinking, liberty- cherishing people.
profoundest insult is to Israel’s autonomous legal system, put on the same plane
as a terrorist regime’s inyour- face lawlessness.
Sarkozy’s subtext is
that Hamouri’s incarceration is somehow illicit and that Netanyahu, like any
Third World autocrat, can fix things – much as Kim Jong-il could spring foreign
detainees from a North Korean prison.
This further implies that French
citizens are above the law anywhere outside France. Hence the French refusal to
extradite the two French tourists who ran over Lee Zeitouni in Tel Aviv on
September 16. They sped on in their vehicle, left her to die and immediately
packed up and headed for the airport. They are now free in Paris.
French apparently cannot countenance the trial abroad of any of their nationals,
no matter how grave the charges and how compelling the evidence. That is
unconscionable and unacceptable, as it presupposes either superiority or
immunity for the French.
Before Sarkozy looks after Hamouri, he’d do
better to extradite Zeitouni’s alleged killers.