The prisoner release debate

The government's decision this week to release 199 Palestinian prisoners to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas succeeded in reopening old wounds for the Three Fathers, who once again grappled with the dilemma facing many like them of balancing personal loss and searing pain against Middle East realpolitik. "I think that a man who was sentenced and punished by a court should not be released, and I'm very much against it," said Yossi Zur. "But I'm not living in a bubble. I know that the situation involving Gilad Schalit is very much on everyone's mind right now. But I think that the government and the prime minister are creating a situation in which bereaved families are dragged into the debate, with a lot of pain and suffering, while I believe it's a purely governmental issue. The government would do better to leave us out of this debate, and not have everyone go through the pain again and again, when we know that this only helps the prime minister cover his ass." "We must remember that those who have been released in the past due to all kinds of political agreements return to their crimes," said Yossi Mendellevich. "But the situation is quite complicated... They should complete their sentences, and pay for what they did... but it is the privilege of the government to do whatever it feels it must do to help the State of Israel." Mendellevich said that while he recognized the move was aimed at buttressing Abbas against his Hamas rivals, "I'm not happy with it, but I rely on the government to do the right thing." "I'm sick of hearing them speak of releasing terrorists," said Ron Kehrmann. "It's something I cannot understand. These two men are like two canes leaning against one another - Olmert has already decided to resign and Abu Mazen [Abbas] has no mandate to do anything. The only thing they are thinking about is their own political survival, and not about the future of the two nations. "By releasing these terrorists, the government is only increasing the price Israel will have to pay for releasing Gilad Schalit, after the mistake it committed in releasing [terrorist Samir] Kuntar a month ago. Nothing has changed. The attitude still remains the same, and the Israelis are not willing to learn how to speak Arabic - by that I mean they are not willing to speak in such a clear way, and to tell the other side that our people come first. What happened is that their political survival comes first, and this is what aggravates me." Kehrmann said he was not optimistic the High Court of Justice could prevent the release of any of the prisoners. "In the past we've seen that all the petitions to the High Court were turned down, no matter what happened, so I have lost hope even in this last institution I thought would bring justice." Hearing the names of the terrorists who are up for release on the radio this week "only makes the whole thing even more terrible," said Kehrmann. "The deterrent that Israel used to have as a military power and a democracy is vanishing into thin air thanks to our government - and I am not using the word 'leaders' on purpose."