In 1985, I was in a Hebrew language class where our daily discussion turned to current events. The night before, the Israeli government had released some 1100 prisoners in exchange for several Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon. Yitzhak Rabin, Minister of Defense at the time, explained that he could no longer bear seeing the despondent faces of the parents of those captured soldiers.
In our classroom discussion, one young woman argued, “When I saw the faces of the parents whose sons had come home, I knew the correct decision was made.” I strongly disagreed. “To free those three soldiers,” I predicted, “the government is condemning a much larger number of Israelis to death at the hands of the freed terrorists.”
The fulfillment of that prediction was not long in coming. Unfortunately, not only had Israel released the mentors, organizers and teachers of what became known as the (first) intifada, but it put out a clear message to terrorists - if you are captured alive while murdering Jews, Israel will release you before you complete your sentence.
In the wake of that first major terrorist release and the ensuing intifada, many Jews were murdered. Desperate to end the deaths it brought upon itself, Israel grasped at the mirage called Oslo.
Now, one might have hoped that a chastened Israel would not do it again. But the PLO demanded a prisoner release, arguing that the terrorists were soldiers who must be released following the signing of peace accords. Israel’s “Oslo” government at the time, unable to distinguish between terrorists and guerillas (a legal distinction of tremendous import), not only released the murderers from prison, but even imported the granddaddy of mass murderers to lead the emerging terrorist government, which it then armed and gave autonomous areas from which to attack Israelis.
Needless to say, the murders during the first intifada paled in comparison to the terror and murder of the Oslo war (also called the second intifada). One is almost tempted to look back wistfully on those comparatively halcyon days when they only succeeded in murdering Jews one or two at a time with knives and axes, instead of by the busload with explosives.
The third year of the Oslo war is nearly over, and the fourth will soon begin, unless Israel finds a way to halt the murders. But not to fear, the Sharon government has the solution.
First, it found a new peace partner, replacing the master terrorist with his deputy, Mahmoud Abbas (who, until becoming our peace partner, was known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mazen). Next, it undertook to rebuild the Palestinian army, which, like the previous Oslo government, it calls the Palestinian police. After all (and here’s a novel thought), how else can the Palestinian Authority fight terrorism? And now, Sharon is releasing terrorists from prison. He released the “‘fridge bomber,” who was responsible for murdering 14 people and wounding about 100 others. And he now has cabinet approval to release 355 prisoners, with more releases to come.
But Sharon is at a slight disadvantage in making his case.
When Rabin release the 1100 terrorists in 1985, he could claim, somewhat lamely, that he had no idea that they would do it again. Sharon can no longer use that line.
And when Rabin released the murderers as part of his brilliant Oslo strategy, he used the terrorists-as-soldiers alibi, and added for good measure that with peace busting out all over, the incentive for terrorism was gone. Sharon cannot use those arguments either, especially since the current bunch of terrorists was captured after Oslo, when the PLO was ostensibly waging peace with Israel. These guys cannot claim to be soldiers at war. They are just run of the mill mass murderers.
So, Sharon’s argument is that he wants to reassure the Palestinian street and bolster Mahmoud Abbas.
But the Palestinian street needs no reassurance. Let’s be honest. Their own surveys show that they still overwhelmingly support the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. It is axiomatic that they would want all prisoners released - the murderers cannot do their job properly while cooped up in prison.
In any case, reassuring the Palestinian street is not the job of the Prime Minister. Nor is bolstering Abu Mazen. He should occupy himself with saving Jewish lives and providing security for Israel.
So how can Israel best restore its security?
Recent history suggests that Israel places itself in greatest danger when it has a go-it-alone Prime Minister who relies on his own chemistry with Israel’s enemies, while totally ignoring the Knesset and the people. Therefore, the Knesset must act to restore Israel’s security by passing a law barring the Prime Minister and President from releasing mass murderers and their accomplices from captivity without a two-thirds Knesset approval. To justify such a move, the Knesset should also authorize a commission to examine how many Jews were murdered as a result of previous prisoner releases. The security services know which terrorists were responsible for which deaths, and they know the names of released prisoners. Such a study merely requires doing the tabulations.
Keeping the murderers in prison with no hope of release will not only eliminate the threat the terrorists pose, it will drastically reduce the number of future applicants to the Israeli prison alumni association.
Had there been such a law in 1985, Israel’s past 20 years would have been entirely different.Alan Perlman is a technical writer from Carmel in the Hevron hills region. His columns have appeared on IsraelInsider.com, as well as the web-sites of Yahoo! News, Aish HaTorah and radio personality Rush Limbaugh.