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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A 'prisoner' release without criteria?

Ehud K. Olmert's big mouth has gotten him into trouble again.

At the Sharm Summit last month, Olmert decided to make some gratuitous 'gestures' to 'moderate' 'Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen. One of them was the promise to release 250 prisoners terrorists. There was a major problem with this commitment: Olmert made out without conducting an inventory of the 'Palestinians' that Israel is holding. Last Monday, I noted that Olmert was going to have a hard time finding 250 'prisoners' who did not have blood on their hands, and reported that Olmert was planning to release 'prisoners' who have blood on their hands. In plain English, Olmert wants to release mass murderers in order to fulfill his rash commitment to Abu Mazen.

Israel's 'security services' were most unhappy at that prospect. So they sent Olmert a list of 250 'prisoners' who were only Fatah affiliated terrorists, who did not have blood on their hands, and who are at the end of their sentences (any 'prisoner' who is near the end of his sentence is by definition someone who does not have blood on their hands, because murdering terrorists are sentenced to life here). But that list of 'prisoners' would have embarrassed Abu Mazen rather than helping him, so on Saturday, Olmert sent it back and asked the security services to try to come up with a plan that would let him release 250 Fatah-affiliated 'prisoners' whose sentences are not nearing their end and who are not mass murderers.

Everyone except for Israel's sycophantic mass media apparently knew this was why Olmert sent the list back on Saturday. That's why the 'Palestinian' al-Ayam daily reported that Olmert's 'prisoner exchange coordinator' Ofer Dekel met with Samir al-Kuntar. They were trying to take advantage of the situation.

Now, Olmert has gotten himself into trouble with everyone. The 'security services' have completed their audit of the 'Palestinian' terrorists being held in Israeli jails. If you exclude those whose sentences will soon be finished anyway, there are 120 'prisoners' who meet the incompetent Olmert's criteria. Either Olmert will have to back off his promise, or he will have to back off the criteria and release mass murderers like Marwan Barghouti and Samir al-Kuntar. Either way, according to the 'security services,' Olmert has irreparably damaged Israel's ability to negotiate the release of its kidnapped soldiers.
DEBKAfile’s security sources say Olmert’s rejection landed on the desks of Shin Bet chiefs with a nasty thump. They accuse him of causing irreparable damage to the abducted Israeli soldiers’ prospects of freedom by raising the exchange ratio to a level which is unsustainable without compromising national security.

Their sharp criticism also covers his promise to Jordan’s Abdullah to free four Jordanian terrorists serving time for murdering two Israeli soldiers seventeen years ago.

They say Egyptian and other negotiators working to release the three kidnapped soldiers in Hamas and Hizballah hands have been placed in the untenable position of having to extract better bargains from Israel than the Jordanian king and Abbas. They will therefore demand a larger number of high value terrorists serving long stretches for mass murder.

Security officials accuse him of handing out concessions off his own bat to Arab leaders without reference to members of his government, the competent security bodies and even the negotiators.

By downgrading the value of the Fatah prisoners promised Abbas, the Shin Bet had hoped to salvage the negotiations with Hizballah and Hamas. Olmert squashed that move.

The Shin Bet takes his action as a public humiliation and a demonstration of lack of faith. The heads of Israel’s primary intelligence arm for combating terror loss fear a loss of face in the eyes of foreign agencies and the Palestinians.
DEBKAfile also explains what was behind the al-Ayam story:
According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, the Al Palestinian Ayyam story Saturday was designed to exploit the disarray apparent at the top level of Israeli government in five ways.

1. To expose the Israeli prime minister as betraying his own government’s boycott of Hamas by engaging its leaders in direct talks. Mahmoud Abbas will use this Israeli step as a lever to justify his own moves for reconciliation with Hamas which are due to be launched next week when the Egyptian security mission returns to its Gaza Strip base. The mission relocated in Ramallah last month when the violent confrontation between Hamas and Fatah ended in the latter’s defeat and its establishment of a separate government for the West Bank.

2. To show up as hollow Olmert’s words last week when he said that if Abbas repairs his Fatah’s relations with Hamas, Israel will break off contacts with him. [$562 million later. CiJ]

3. To derail the separate Israeli-Hamas track which isolates his Palestinian Authority and avert the large-scale release of Hamas prisoners. This success would bolster Hamas’ domination of the Gaza Strip.

4. By alleging a conversation between Dekel and the Lebanese prisoner Kuntar, the story implied a link between the negotiating tracks for the release of the three soldiers. The resulting Gordian knot is laid squarely at Israel’s door.
If there was a fifth item, someone at DEBKA forgot to post it.

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