The government this week approved the release of 26 Palestinian security
prisoners as part of the first installment required by the agreement reached
between Israel and the Palestinians to return to negotiations.
104 inmates are to be released in four stages.
We have to admit that
something strange is happening in the dynamics of the negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians. To understand what is happening and what might
happen later, we should examine this dynamic from two points of view – Israeli
Anyone who carefully examines the moves undertaken now
by the mediating US sees that most of the energy is being spent on managing
policy and marketing efforts of the process itself, focusing on the mere
existence of the negotiations between the parties.
Nobody talks about
They are not dealing with goals, nor do they clarify what
would be considered a success and what would be remembered as a
Based on the principle of the well-known Canadian media
researcher Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), who argued that “the medium is the
message,” here also the achievement is the very existence of the talks. It
doesn’t matter what happens at the moment and what the consequences will
For example, look at the solemn declarations in Israel and the US
about signing the agreement to resume the negotiations.
important is that the commitment of Israel to release 104 security prisoners,
including terrorists and murderers, was given to the Palestinians in exchange
for their consent to return to the negotiating table.
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could seemingly boast a real achievement in
the release of the prisoners, a sensitive issue among the Palestinian
In return, however, Israel received only two things: Palestinian
consent to sit down to negotiations, and don’t lodge an official request to stop
settlement construction, although it is clear that this demand still
And yet no one, as expected, is really satisfied. The
Palestinians are disappointed because the released prisoners are too few and too
old, and many of them belong to Hamas.
Abbas’s associates claim that the
move actually weakens him on the Palestinian street because of the release of
Hamas terrorists to the Gaza Strip.
Israelis, on the other hand, are
upset about the release of murderers of Jews who were supposed to spend the rest
of their lives in prison.
We should understand that neither side will
ever be satisfied.
Palestinians demand and expect the release of all
security prisoners from Israeli jails. And the citizens of Israel will not be
able to live with such a move, especially when there is no real progress in the
The dangers in implementing the process are clear. The
return of hundreds of experienced terrorists who already committed murder and
who were schooled in Israeli prisons is a move that may encourage young
Palestinians to continue the path of armed struggle. For it is clear to them
that they will eventually be released even if they kill.
The move also
will strengthen Hamas in the Gaza Strip, from which most of the prisoners
originated. Palestinian security forces will not make efforts to monitor the
released prisoners in the absence of motivation.
While in Gaza the
release represents a strengthening of Hamas, in the West Bank it supposedly
symbolizes the victory of Fatah over Israel. Hence most of the burden will fall
on Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which could do its job very well but will
be robbed of energy and precious resources.
shows that most of the released prisoners are recidivist. Terror is the only way
they know. However, they are older and weary after years in prison, and perhaps
would prefer to return to normal lives with their families.
quantity and quality of discharged prisoners is not expected to create a
critical mass of motivated terrorist activity against Israel. But it does
encourage morale on the Palestinian street while damaging Israeli
It is likely that those who choose to return to terrorism will
find themselves back in Israeli prisons and interrogation rooms, even if that
happens after we pay a high price.
The Palestinian street delighted in
the releases, but was disappointed over the small numbers amid the opportunity
to release all prisoners. Israelis on the other hand sense a loss of
The only hope for both sides is that upon completion of
negotiations there will be a full release of the prisoners and, on the other
hand, a full peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Such an achievement
is a very important Israeli interest and we should be ready to make painful
concessions, including the release of such prisoners. The question is: Didn’t we
give up too fast and give too much for too little? The answer is seemingly
Releasing murderous terrorists before starting real and
substantive negotiations is a very bold move and somewhat dangerous for Israel.
We have already paid a heavy price, but got nothing in exchange.
Binyamin Netanyahu didn’t have many choices.
American pressure exerted by
Secretary of State John Kerry left him no choice. The United States made it
clear that the responsibility for failure of the talks would be placed on
Israel’s shoulders, and the punishment would be diplomatic isolation. In such a
situation, Netanyahu had no option other to enter into negotiations that will
probably not lead anywhere but cost us dearly.The writer is a former
brigadiergeneral who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security