Even most of his sternest critics are giving John Kerry credit for good intentions in his efforts to reconvene Middle East peace talks. The prospects for success are minimal and the consequences of almost certain failure are awful to contemplate. But few would deny that Kerry means well. But there is one aspect to the American participation in what is likely to be yet another in a long list of failures that cannot be spun as a worthwhile risk taken in the name of the cause of peace. Along with other absurd Palestinian demands that Israel concede the substance of the talks prior to the beginning of negotiations is one particular condition that Kerry should never have been a party to: the release of terrorist murderers.
In order to avoid the blame for the failure of Kerry’s quest, Israel has been reportedly forced to agree to the release of 82 terrorists imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo Accords as part of a package of concessions aimed at enticing the Palestinian Authority to rejoin the talks they’ve been boycotting for the last four and a half years. According to the Times of Israel, the Israeli Cabinet is scheduled to vote on the release prior to the start of the event Kerry has stage-managed. Among those to be released are believed to be a large number convicted of cold-blooded murders of Israeli men, women, and children. Even if you concede Kerry’s good intentions, this outrage is not something that should be done in the name of the people of the United States even if the supposed object is the achievement of peace. That the release of unrepentant murderers should be the result of U.S. policy is not merely painful for Israelis—especially the families of the victims—it is a disgrace. That this is being done to further a process that even officials of the PA agree is nothing more than a ruse rather than a genuine pursuit of peace is doubly disgraceful.
It is true that Israel has often released large batches of Palestinian terrorists in the past. Most recently, the Netanyahu government made the difficult decision to spring over a thousand prisoners, including many with a lot of blood on their hands, in order to purchase the freedom of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The prime minister was bitterly criticized by many on the Israeli right and even many American conservatives who argued, with reason, that giving up so many killers would boost terrorism and merely encourage other attempts to hold Israelis for ransom. Even so, I thought Netanyahu’s decision was justified since the ethos of Israel and public opinion demanded that the government pay virtually any price to redeem a captive rather than to let him or die in the name of principle. Like it or not, that prisoner exchange could not have been avoided.
But there is no such justification for turning loose more terrorists this time.
It is true that winning the freedom of Palestinians convicted of killing Jews is an obsession of the PA and its leadership. PA TV glorifies imprisoned terrorists as “heroes” and regularly highlights their families. Since Palestinian culture glorifies such violence, there is nothing else Abbas could do that would be as popular as forcing Israel to free those Arabs who have committed atrocities.
It is that reasoning that has led Kerry to force Netanyahu to agree to the release. If Hamas gained popularity for the Shalit exchange, Washington thinks a batch of freed terrorists will do the same for Abbas and thereby, at least in theory, boost the chances for peace.
But as the PA has told its own people over and over again, their object in the talks isn’t peace. Indeed, as its religious endowments minister explained on PA TV in a Friday sermon last week, the whole point of negotiations is nothing more than a ruse intended to fool the Jews.
With PA leader Mahmoud Abbas sitting right there as he spoke live, Mahmoud Habbash:
compared the decision of the PA leadership to negotiate with Israel to the agreement of the Prophet Muhammad on a 10-year truce with his rivals in the Quraish tribe of Mecca, known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya, reached in the year 628 CE.
The significance of the treaty is that the prophet reneged on the promise and used the respite to help conquer the Jewish tribe.
That Kerry is treating the fact that Abbas sat right there and listened to this with approval as irrelevant to the prospects of peace, and not a sign that the prisoner release should be canceled, is a sign that Washington has learned nothing since Yasir Arafat made a similar speech about Oslo being merely part of a two-phase effort to destroy Israel in 1994.
President Obama has done his best to exploit the tears and pain of the families of the Newtown massacre in his effort to promote gun control-legislation. But apparently the same pain of Israeli victims of Palestinian killers means little or nothing to him. Whatever one may think of the need for peace talks, we should all be ashamed of the American involvement in letting killers walk in this manner.