Our World: The next grand bargain

There are many options for a deal other than capitulation to the Palestinians.

glick long hair 88 (photo credit: )
glick long hair 88
(photo credit: )
Shoshana Amos, Aviel Atash, Vitaly Brodsky, Tamara Dibrashvilli, Raisa Forer, Larisa Gomanenko, Denise Hadad, Tatiana Kortchenko, Rosita Lehman, Karine Malka, Nargiz Ostrovsky, Maria Sokolov, Roman Sokolovsky, Tiroayent Takala, Eliyahu Uzan, Emmanuel Yosef (Yosefov). All the above were murdered on August 31, 2004, in twin bus bombings in Beersheba. The attack was planned and commanded by Matzeb Hasalmon, Hamas terror commander in Hebron. The massacre in Beersheba was far from inevitable. Hasalmon, who recruited the bombers, trained them for their mission and sent them on their way, had previously been taken out of commission. He was arrested and convicted for the felony crime of membership in Hamas. Since Hasalmon was not convicted of murder, when the Sharon government released him from prison together with another 460 terrorists on January 29, 2004, no one raised a fuss. The massive release, and the simultaneous release of the bodies of 59 dead terrorists was carried out in exchange for the return of Elhanan Tenenbaum, who was kidnapped in Dubai and brought to Lebanon by Hizbullah in 2000. Israel also received the bodies of IDF soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Suwaid, who were kidnapped and murdered by Hizbullah terrorists in October 2000. Today the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government is in advanced stages of negotiations towards the exchange of Cpl. Gilad Schalit for up to 1,400 terrorists. Schalit was kidnapped from his base near Gaza in late June by a joint Fatah-Hamas terror cell. He has been illegally held incommunicado ever since. Speaking Sunday of the impending deal, Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said Israelis should be prepared to see not only small-fry terrorists like Hasalmon, but also convicted murderers set free. As Herzog put it, we should use "original thinking" regarding who we should let out of prison. During the heyday of the peace process in the 1990s, in repeated "confidence building measures," Israel released 6,912 terrorists from prison. As time went by, it became increasingly difficult to limit the releases to those who had not actually murdered. So the governments thought "originally" and released killers whose victims were not Israelis. So it was that killers like Iyad Suwalha were sent packing. Suwalha was arrested in 1992 for murdering a fellow Palestinian who he suspected of assisting Israel in its counterterror operations. He was released in 1999. Senior Warrant Officer Haim Alfasi, Chief Warrant Officer Yaakov Ben-Shabbat, Cpl. Mazi Grego, Capt. Yael Kfir, Cpl. Felix Nikolaichuk, Sgt. Yonatan Peleg, Sgt. Efrat Schwartzman, Prosper Twito, Sgt. Liron Siboni, Dr. David Appelbaum, Nava Appelbaum, David Shimon Avizadris, Shafik Kerem, Alon Mizrahi, Gila Moshe and Yehiel (Emil) Tubol. All of the above were murdered in two suicide bombings on September 9, 2003. The first took place outside Tzrifin military base; the second inside Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem. Suwalha commanded both attacks. In July, in response to the abduction of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took the nation to war in Lebanon. Olmert enjoyed massive public support when he pledged to fight to gain their release and to destroy Hizbullah, Iran's proxy army in Lebanon that had kidnapped them. Yet Olmert lost interest in fighting and gave up on winning when he saw how hard it was. Due in large part to the premier's personal incompetence, Israel lost the war. Not only was Hizbullah not destroyed, and not only have Iran and Syria already rebuilt its arsenal to pre-war levels, Regev and Goldwasser - like Schalit - remain in captivity. Since the ignominious cease-fire last August, the public has demanded an accounting from Olmert. At almost every single non-scripted public gathering where Olmert appears, he is hounded by angry citizens who demand he explain how he dared to abandon the field of battle and leave our soldiers behind. Last September in one such incident, Olmert was confronted by Elipaz Baeloha, whose son Nadav was killed in battle in the war. When Baeloha demanded an accounting, as is his wont, Olmert refused. Rather than accept the responsibilities of the office to which he stubbornly clings, Olmert deflected Baeloha's criticism by saying the public is at fault. We are to blame, he explained, because we were stupid enough to believe him when he said he would fight to bring the men home. As he put it, "From the beginning I knew we would have to negotiate to secure the release of the hostages. To rescue them we would have to pay a very heavy price. How many more children would you want to die like your son died to rescue them? Did anyone seriously think that I would get to some place, which I don't know where it is, and would try to rescue them?" Although as the months have passed the plight of our hostages being held in Gaza and Lebanon has been mostly out of the headlines, no one has forgotten them. And the frustration at the government's failure to secure their release came to the forefront of the public agenda since the 15 British sailors and marines were kidnapped by Iran last month. The contrast between the British, who were paraded seemingly continuously before the television cameras from the day of their capture, and the Israelis, who haven't been seen or heard from since their abductions, was a cause for deep frustration. "Those lucky Brits," the thinking went, "At least they get to see their guys." The manner in which the Blair government secured the release of the hostages has been roundly praised by the Israeli Left. Led by the Haaretz newspaper, the Left, which castigates as warmongers all who call for Israel to defeat its enemies, immediately pointed a finger at the government for not having yet capitulated to all the terror-masters' ever-escalating terms for a deal on the soldiers. As Zvi Barel of Haaretz put it, "Britain... understands what Israel refuses to understand: The captives and prisoners of a country perhaps 'disturb' its prestige, but negotiating their release does not damage the state's power. Their release sometimes requires a high price, but in the case of Israel vis-a-vis Hizbullah or the Palestinian Authority, the price is in identical coinage: captives in exchange for prisoners and detainees... Only the exchange of people. And a bit of prestige." Like the British, the Haaretz-led Israeli Left ignores inconvenient truths. In the media age, prestige is power. Loss of prestige leads directly to a loss of national power and, inevitably, to the loss of life. The families of the four British soldiers who were killed by Iranian-sponsored terrorists in Basra the same day their navy and marine counterparts were released in shame by Iran can attest to this fact. Avraham (Albert) Balhasan, Rose Boneh, Hava Hannah (Anya) Bonder, Anat Darom, Viorel Octavian Florescu, Natalia Gamril, Yechezkel Isser Goldberg, Baruch (Roman) Hondiashvili, Dana Itach, Mehbere Kifile and Eli Zfira. The families of the 11 Israelis listed above can also attest to this fact. They were murdered in a bus bombing in Jerusalem on January 29, 2004. The attack occurred just as Israel was releasing 461 terrorists from prison and transferring the bodies of 59 dead terrorists to their masters in the PA and Lebanon for burial in the Tenenbaum deal. Another 50 Israelis were wounded in the attack. That day, then-science minister Eliezer Sandberg stated, "There is no connection and it is forbidden to make a connection between the bombing and the deal for the prisoner swap." Sandberg's statement, far-fetched under any circumstances, was rendered farcical when Fatah declared responsibility for the massacre on Hizbullah's television network. All told, the Almagor Terror Victims Association has counted 177 Israelis who were murdered by terrorists who Israel released in prisoner swaps with terrorists. The Olmert-Livni-Peretz government acts as though there is no way other than releasing terrorists, and so signing the death warrants of hundreds more Israelis, to bring about Schalit's release. But this is simply untrue. What is true is that since the government embraced defeat last summer, it has had no policy other than capitulation. But there are many, many other options. Schalit was kidnapped by a joint Hamas-Fatah force. The government could place sanctions such as travel bans on PA Chairman and Fatah terror chief Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister and Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh and their associates. So too, the government could order the Prisons Service to prevent jailed terrorists from talking to reporters, politicians and European diplomats and so end the anomalous state of affairs whereby convicted murderers like arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti are allowed to engage in psychological warfare against Israeli society and serve as power brokers in Palestinian society from prison. Since last summer, the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government has taken no steps that would lead either the Palestinians or Hizbullah to view Schalit, Regev and Goldwasser's illegal captivity as a burden. Rather, like their bosses in Teheran, the terrorists have all benefited from their criminal behavior. Because of the fecklessness of our leaders, we lost a war we should have won and our hostages, who soldiers like Nadav Baeloha heroically gave their lives to free, have remained in captivity. As Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians show daily with their escalating saber-rattling, our leaders' continued incompetence since the war has brought us ever closer to a new war. Now, through their cowardly and unnecessary genuflections to our enemies, made under the preening cover of feigned concern for the lives of our hostages they have done nothing to free, Olmert and his associates place the lives of every one of us in danger.