Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why a 'prisoner release' now?

On Sunday, the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai cabinet approved the release of 199 'Palestinian' prisoners terrorists from Israeli jails as a 'gesture' to 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen. In doing so, the government crossed a new line even beyond the line it crossed in releasing Lebanese murderer Samir al-Kuntar. When Kuntar was released, the government could pretend it had a chance of releasing live soldiers until the two black boxes were placed on the ground. And even after the black boxes were placed on the ground, the government could argue that it got bodies (and body parts) in exchange for Kuntar. This time, the government is releasing terrorists 'with blood on their hands' - two convicted murderers - in return for nothing. The only thing the government might be getting from the 'Palestinians' is Abu Mazen's continued willingess to make eventually resigning Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert feel important by continuing to meet with him.

But this exchange is even worse. Writing in Haaretz (under the misleading headline "Raising the Stakes for Hamas"), Avi Issacharoff, who for many years was Israel Radio's reporter in Judea and Samaria, writes that the government's decision to release 199 terrorists - including two convicted murderers - for free is going to make a deal for Gilad Shalit much harder to come by.
Israel's decision limits Hamas' freedom of movement in the negotiations for Shalit. If Abbas managed to free 600 prisoners - including two with "blood on their hands" - through talks alone, Hamas will be forced to make Israel release dozens of such prisoners. The price that Gaza and the Palestinians have paid is too high to settle for less.
But Issacharoff believes that the terrorist release will at least help Abu Mazen. The JPost's Khaled Abu Toameh, who is a 'Palestinian' himself, doesn't even think it will do that.
The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails strengthens the "moderates" has never proven to be correct.

The best way to strengthen the "moderates" at this stage is by putting pressure on them to reform the PA and end financial corruption and the state of lawlessness and chaos in the West Bank.
Of course, ending financial corruption would mean - for example - confronting top 'Palestinian' negotiator Ahmed Qrei Abu Ala about his son's restaurants and his son-in-law's concrete company. Don't expect that to happen anytime soon.

But Abu Toameh says it's worse than that. The 'prisoner releases' are a negative influence on the 'Palestinians.'
Ironically, in some cases the released prisoners turned out to be a big headache for the "moderate" Palestinian leadership.

Shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel freed hundreds of Fatah security prisoners with the hope that they would help Yasser Arafat and his security forces in imposing law and order and fighting Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

But many of the released prisoners soon became involved in various criminal activities ranging from armed robberies, extortion, theft and arms trafficking.

Others later joined Hamas and other radical groups and became actively involved in armed attacks on Israel during the second intifada.

They also became a financial burden on the shoulders of the PA, which had to put the local "heroes" on its payroll and pay them salaries, although many of them were not doing any work.
And Abu Toameh's not even discussing the hundreds of Israelis killed and wounded by 'released prisoners' in subsequent terror attacks. According to Abu Toameh, not only is Abu Mazen not gaining anything from the release, neither is Israel.
Today, Israel is hoping that the release of the 200 security prisoners, almost all of whom belong to Fatah, would again strengthen Abbas and Fatah at the expense of Hamas.

However, it's highly unlikely that Abbas would benefit from the release of the prisoners because many Palestinians don't give him credit for the move. Rather, these Palestinians see the decision as an attempt on the part of Israel to improve its image on the international arena and extract political concessions from Abbas and his colleagues in Ramallah.

A top PA official said, "What's the point in releasing 200 prisoners when Israel is continuing to build in the settlements? Although it's a positive step, I don't see how it's going to bring us closer to peace."

Moreover, the decision is seen by Hamas and its supporters as an Israeli attempt to drive a wedge between Fatah and Hamas and deepen divisions among the Palestinians.

Similarly, Israel should not expect to make any significant gains as a result of its decision.

Even the "moderates" in Ramallah who welcomed the decision were quick to emphasize that it was insufficient and that Israel must now free all the security prisoners.

Or, as a prominent academic in Ramallah put it, "Israel is today releasing 200 prisoners to make room in its prisons for the hundreds of Palestinians who were arrested by the Israeli army in the past few weeks."
So why is Israel doing this? The best theory I've seen is one I blogged about ten days ago which was propounded by Amos Harel writing in Haaretz.

Israel completed its part of the prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah Wednesday when it released five Palestinian youths held for throwing rocks, as a special good-will gesture to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The prisoners were released as the final step in the deal, which saw the return of the bodies of abducted Israeli Defense Forces soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

The Israeli gesture was minimal, as Hezbollah had originally demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinians, including murderers. Israel refused, and succeeded in lowering the number of prisoners and the crimes involved to a minimum. As such, the prisoners were not just small fish, they were hardly minnows.

But here is an interesting coincidence: A few hours after the five prisoner youths returned home to their families, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced another gesture - this one to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel said it would free over 100 Palestinian prisoners within a month.

Is there a connection between the two acts? Officially, Israel denies it. But the fact is that for nine months, since the Annapolis Summit, no such similar gestures were made.

As long as Goldwasser and Regev's bodies were held in Lebanon, no Palestinian prisoners were released. And now, suddenly and with no connection, over 100 prisoners are to go free.
If this was a 'gesture' to Hezbullah, they have done nothing to deserve it. The entire manner in which they conducted the 'negotiations' over Goldwasser and Regev's release reeked of dishonesty down to the final dramatic presentation of the two black boxes containing their remains. They gave no new information about Ron Arad. But only a strong government could have stood up and said that as far as it was concerned, Hezbullah had not fulfilled its part of the bargain and therefore it was not going to release any more 'prisoners.' The Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government is not a strong government. Every day it remains in power is a peril to the State of Israel. Every day it remains in power is causing irreparable damage to Israel's 'national psyche.'


Post a Comment

<< Home