Israel’s decision to release terrorist prisoners to entice the Palestinian Authority to show up for the peace talks convened by Secretary of State John Kerry is being described in international circles as a “good will” gesture. But if Kerry thought the controversial by Prime Minister Netanyahu would actually engender good will toward Israel on the part of the Palestinians or help Israelis think better of the Palestinians, he is learning just how wrong he was. Indeed, it is doubtful that anything that Kerry could have asked Netanyahu to do could have done more to make peace seem less likely.
The decision had already been the subject of bitter debate on both sides last month, but today’s announcement of the first round of releases has revived the argument. The details of the crimes committed by these Palestinians are painful to read. But just as painful for Israelis is the way they are being lauded as “freedom fighters” by the same Palestinian Authority that they are told is the Jewish state’s peace partner. That the PA is also saying that none of these killers will be deported or at least sent into relative isolation in Gaza is also chilling. The Palestinian reaction to their release is conclusive evidence that the culture of violence that makes such terrorist acts acceptable has not sufficiently been altered in order to make peace possible.
The prime minister’s decision has been slammed in some quarters because of the belief that he had a choice between releasing prisoners and enacting a building freeze in Jerusalem and the West Bank when Kerry forced him to assist the re-starting of the talks. His choice, if indeed there really was such a choice, is defensible on the grounds that making concessions on territory would have made negotiations pointless. But whether he was right or wrong to pick this option, the details about the released prisoners will not convince many Israelis that there is much hope for the talks. Here, thanks to the Times of Israel, is a brief compendium of the lucky Palestinian prisoners:
The list included 17 names of prisoners who had murdered Israelis, including Abu-Musa Salam Ali Atia of Fatah, who murdered Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg in a Petah Tikvah construction site in 1994.
A plasterer by trade, Rotenberg was attacked by Abu Musa and an accomplice at a construction site where all three men worked in March 1994. He sustained repeated blows to the neck with axes. His wounds induced a coma, and he died two days after the attack. He was survived by his brother and sister, who were also survivors of Sobibor, and by a wife and two children. Rotenberg was 67 when he died.
Rotenberg wasn’t the oldest victim of the prisoners who made it onto the list Sunday. Fatah member Ra’ai Ibrahim Salam Ali was jailed in 1994 for the murder of 79-year-old Moris Eisenstatt. Eisenstatt was killed with ax blows to the head while he sat on a public Kfar Saba bench reading a book.
Another prisoner, Salah Ibrahim Ahmad Mugdad, also of Fatah, was imprisoned in 1993 for killing 72-year-old Sirens Hotel security guard Israel Tenenbaum by beating him in the head with a steel rod. …
Two of the prisoners, Abu Satta Ahmad Sa’id Aladdin and Abu Sita Talab Mahmad Ayman, were imprisoned in 1994 for the murder of David Dadi and Haim Weizman. After killing Dadi and Weizman as they slept in Weizman’s apartment, the attackers cut off their ears as proof of the killing.
Abdel Aal Sa’id Ouda Yusef was imprisoned in 1994 to a 22-year sentence for several grenade attacks, and for his part as an accomplice in the murder of Ian Sean Feinberg and the murder of Sami Ramadan. Feinberg, a 30-year-old father of three, was a proponent of Palestinian economic development. He was killed by gunmen who stormed a business meeting in Gaza City which he attended in April 1993.
Also on the list was Kour Matwah Hamad Faiz of Fatah, imprisoned in 1985 after he was convicted of killing Menahem Dadon and Salomon Abukasis in 1983 and planning to murder then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Another two prisoners to be released, Fatah members Sualha Fazah Ahmed Husseini and Sualha Bad Almajed Mahmed Mahmed, were imprisoned for a stabbing attack on a crowded Ramat Gan bus, on the 66 line, in 1990. The two, together with a third accomplice, stabbed wildly at passengers, killing 24-year-old Baruch Heizler and wounding three young women.
Sha’at Azat Shaban Ata was imprisoned in 1993 for helping to orchestrate the murder of 51-year-old Simcha Levi, a woman who made her living transporting Palestinian day laborers to work in Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. In March 1993, three of the women laborers were disguised male attackers, who beat and stabbed her to death.
Maslah Abdullah Salama Salma, a Hamas member likely to be sent to the Gaza Strip after his release, was imprisoned in 1993 for the brutal murder of Petah Tikvah convenience store owner Reuven David. Abdallah, together with an accomplice, entered David’s convenience store on May 20, 1991.
The remaining prisoners, in the order listed by the Prisons Service:
Na’anish Na’if Abdal Jafer Samir, imprisoned in 1989 for the murder of Binyamin Meisner.
Arsheed A’Hameed Yusef Yusef, imprisoned in 1993 for the murder of Nadal Rabu Ja’ab, Adnan Ajad Dib, Mufid Cana’an, Tawafiq Jaradat and Ibrahim Sa’id Ziwad.
Al-Haaj Othman Amar Mustafa, imprisoned in 1989 for the murder of Steven Rosenfeld.
Maklad Mahmoud Zaid Salah, imprisoned in 1993 for the murder of Yeshayahu Deutsch.
Barbach Faiz Rajab Madhat, imprisoned in 1994 for the murder of Moshe Beker.
Nashabat Jaabar Yusef Mahmed, imprisoned in 1990 for serving as an accessory to the murder of Amnon Pomerantz.
Mortja Hasin Ghanam Samir, imprisoned in 1993 for the abduction, torture and murder of Samir Alsilawi, Khaled Malka, Nasser Aqila, Ali al Zaabot.
Faraj Saleh al-Rimahi, imprisoned in 1992 for the murder of Avraham Kinstler.
Mansour Omar Abdel Hafiz Asmat, imprisoned in 1993 as an accessory to the murder of Hayim Mizrahi.
Asarka Mahmad Ahmad Khaled, imprisoned in 1991 for the murder of Annie Ley.
Jandiya Yusef Radwan Nahad, imprisoned in 1989 for the murder of Zalman Shlein.
Hamdiya Mahmoud Awed Muhammed, imprisoned in 1989 for the murder of Zalman Shlein.
Abdel Nabi A-Wahab Gamal Jamil, imprisoned in 1992 for the murder of Shmuel Gersh.
Ziwad Muhammed Taher Taher, imprisoned in 1993 for the murder of Avraham Cohen.
Sabih Abed Hamed Borhan, imprisoned in 2001 for the murder of Jamil Muhammad Naim Sabih, Aisha Abdullah Haradin.
The release of these killers is re-opening old wounds among their survivors and friends as well as leading other Israelis to believe Netanyahu has betrayed them. But whatever one may think of the prime minister’s decision, the shameless manner by which the PA seeks to honor terrorists and the importance it placed on the issue undermines any hopes for peace. Their freedom will only encourage and legitimate the next round of Palestinian attacks when their intransigence causes the peace talks to fail. If any good will, either on the part of Palestinians or Israelis, has been gained by the gesture, it is not readily apparent.