Just after midnight on Wednesday, Israel Hayom reports, 26 Palestinian security prisoners were set free by Israel. Twenty-one were sent to the West Bank, five to Gaza.
All of these prisoners were convicted either of murder or attempted murder. They constitute the second of four groups of 26 prisoners who are being released periodically during the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. For Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, freeing them was an iron-clad condition for entering the talks at all. Israel acceded to it under heavy U.S. pressure, spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“…Palestinians in Ramallah and Gaza,” Israel Hayom informs us,
celebrated the release of the prisoners. The 21 prisoners returning to the West Bank attended an official reception at the Mukataa in Ramallah, where…Abbas greeted them personally.
“We welcome our brothers the heroes coming from behind the bars to a world of freedom and liberty,” Abbas was quoted as saying.
None of the American diplomatic personnel in Israel attended this reception. That may not seem worth pointing out. Wouldn’t it be a diplomatic slap to Israel? And wouldn’t it contradict American values to attend a celebratory reception for terrorist killers?
Indeed, it would. But why, then, did it not unacceptably contradict American values to pressure Israel to free them in the first place?
Indeed, these 26 are a nasty lot. Here are just a few examples from a partial list compiled by Israel National News:
Awad Masalkha took part in the murder of Yigal Vaknin…and also murdered another Jew, David Reuven…, an Iraqi-born father of three who ran a mini-market…. In 1991, Awad and other terrorists entered the mini-market, attacked Reuven, tied him up and beat him to death. He was 59….
Ahmed Damuni murdered reservist soldier Amnon Pomerantz…in 1990. Pomerantz was on his way to reserve service in Gaza when he entered the Al Burej neighborhood by mistake. He was pummeled with rocks, murdered, and his body was burned inside his car. He was 46. He was survived by his wife and three children.
Haza Yusef and Abdullah Bani-Hassan murdered Yosef Eliyahu and Leah Elmakayes…, two teachers, in 1985. The teachers were preparing a field trip for their pupils in the Gilboa area, when they were accosted by the terrorists. Eliyahu, 35, married and a father of five, was shot at close range, and Elmakayis, 19, was strangled to death. She had been a National Service volunteer. She left behind her parents and three siblings.
The peace talks, by the way, are reportedly going nowhere. The ordinary, humble, logical person might remark—that’s not surprising, is it, considering that one side regards such people as heroes?
And not only that, but well-compensated heroes. “Palestinian media,” Israel Hayom adds,
reported Tuesday that every prisoner who was released will receive a special grant from the PA, according to the length of his prison sentence. The grants—some of which are expected to amount to tens of thousands of dollars—will join a monthly stipend the PA plans to allot the prisoners, ranging between 2,500 and 4,500 shekels ($710-$1,280) a month.
Whether Israel should be giving in to the Palestinian-U.S. advocacy for these terrorists is bitterly debated in Israel. On Monday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said:
Ordering the Palestinian prisoners’ release has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as prime minister…. I am sure that any prime minister who has ever had to make a similar decision in the past has agonized over it as well, given the injustice of seeing these heinous murderers freed before they have finished serving their sentences in full….
My heart goes out to the bereaved families. This decision was a necessary evil, dictated by the reality we live in. We must navigate a complex international arena that presents us with multiple challenges. It mandates that we consider various factors and do what is best for the State of Israel.
A translation might be:
It is very difficult getting along with the current U.S. administration, but nevertheless we remain dependent on America. At present the main issue facing the State of Israel is the Iranian nuclear threat. I have had to play along with the Palestinian game in the hope of achieving maximum understanding with Washington on a matter that poses a far more strategic, indeed an existential danger.
Just how difficult it has been to get along with the Obama administration on the Iranian issue was evident this week in Kerry’s thinly veiled reference to Netanyahu’s “fear tactics.”
It may seem like “fear tactics” to those who split their time between Washington and Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. To Israelis, the “fear” induced by batches of freed terrorists and Iranian genocidal threats is quite real. At some points in Israeli history deferring to America has turned out to be more dangerous and costly than not doing so. This may be one of them.
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