The French Connection

Sarkozy demands early release of terrorist with French citizenship following Netanyahu snub.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
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 card).
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 citizens.
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 Schalit deal.
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 country.
Pro forma Sarkozy’s line is that Hamouri “is capable of rehabilitation.” This begs the obvious question of how he knows this.
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.
Darwish knew 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.
In 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.
Sarkozy called 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.
But 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.
The 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.
The 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.