Releasing terrorists: In whose interest?

Everyone knows that the current negotiations between Jews and Arabs will fail; nothing Israel can offer – short of suicide – will satisfy Arabs.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS/ISSAM RIMAWI/POOL)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Announcing an agreement to release 104 of the most blood-thirsty Arab prisoners in Israeli jails in return for Palestinian Authority promises to show up at the latest merry-go-round negotiations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bemoaned the “agonizing difficulty” of making such a decision.
His insistence on the necessity of making such a concession was unconvincing and unconsoling.
He was acting, he explained, as a national leader in Israel’s national interests. He forgot one thing: consensus.
With heavy-arm-twisting he wrung out a dozen required votes in his select security cabinet, avoiding a larger vote, similar to what previous prime-ministers maneuvered in releasing massive numbers of Arab terrorists and criminals in return for a few living (and some dead) Israelis – with disastrous results.
The problem with such decision making is that it fails to meet the minimal standards of a democratic process. Taking controversial positions is inherent in political leadership, but doing so without at least approval of the full cabinet and making sure that Israelis are protected is self-defeating.
The genius of Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership in national crisis Americans celebrate, was his ability to bring together a wide spectrum of politicians, some of whom were his bitter enemies, and inspire the nation with magnificent eloquence and vision. On battlegrounds and in government offices, he gave the American people a clear sense of what they were fighting for, and they rallied behind him.
Instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu, like most Israeli leaders, relies on expediency and subterfuge.
He may win in the short run, but he and we will lose in the long run – not because the decisions were right or wrong, but because they were done without sufficient and necessary consent.
The widespread sense that Netanyahu is making decisions that reflect the interests of foreign politicians twists the knife cruelly.
What he may win in a p p l a u s e from the diplomatic community, we have lost – more important – in our national purpose and unity.
Everyone knows that the current negotiations between Jews and Arabs will fail; nothing Israel can offer – short of suicide – will satisfy Arabs. The reason is simple: Their issue is whether the State of Israel should exist at all. Every poll confirms that. Israeli-Jordanian and Israeli-Egyptian treaties were not about peace, but the absence of all-out war – and that may change soon.
Israel’s civil/social wars, moreover, continue to tear us apart; astonishingly, the prime minister has offered little or no vision or leadership. Rather than carefully prepared speeches that raise the quality of debate, he issues short press releases written by spin doctors to the media. A safe method of avoiding troubling questions and confrontations, this creates suspicion and animosity.
Releasing terrorists and combatants to achieve a national goal is understandable – as in exchanges of prisoners following wars. But releasing hardened criminals back into the population serves no purpose other than giving them another opportunity to murder.
And pardoning them in order to prime the Arab negotiating pump is pimping for diplomatic whores.
Even that might be acceptable, however, if the decision was made by a broad majority of elected representatives.
And even if that were not possible, one might understand the necessity based on a reasonable quid pro quo. But, for nothing? Assuming that Barack Obama threatened Netanyahu behind the scenes over major security issues, such as bombing Iran, he may have had no choice but to comply.
But conditions can be attached that will mitigate the danger: Prisoners will not be released to Israel or any Israeli-controlled territory; prisoners with Israeli citizenship will be required to give up that citizenship; prisoners with families will be required to relocate with their families. This is neither their homeland, nor their country.
Finally, this prisoner release should be accompanied by a presidential pardon for Jewish prisoners who have served most of their sentence and pose no danger to the community.
If, as most predict, the planned negotiations (if they ever happen) will fail, why try again now? Overlooked is the timetable: nine months, or more. This means stretching the process until midterm elections in the US, in 2014, which set the stage for the presidential election in 2016.
The timing of negotiations, therefore, has nothing to do with achieving a durable peace, but with pressuring Israel to freeze building projects in Judea and Samaria, release more terrorists, and make more concessions. The illusion will work as long as the peace merry-go-round revolves.
When it stops, and/or when we decide to get off, Americans will be swamped by local and national politics, and Iran will have the bomb.
Al-Qaida Islamists finally learned how to force the United States of America to temporarily surrender and close dozens of its embassies.
Meanwhile, the Arab terrorists Israel plans to release will be back at their deadly work, their children and grandchildren in training, and more bribes to continue talking.
It takes nine months of gestation to create life; in this case, however, the opposite seems more likely.