NEW YORK – The Bush administrations plan to place some Palestinian Arab terrorists in a Palestinian Authority jail monitored by American and British personnel means that the terrorists will receive only the lenient sentences that the PA gave them, and the foreign monitors could become the targets of hostage-takers seeking to free the terrorists.
According to media descriptions of the plan, the six will be held in a Palestinian Authority facility in Gaza, where they will serve the prison terms they received last week from one of Arafats kangaroo courts: 18 years, 12 years, 4 years, and 1 year. According to Arafat spokesman Yaser Abed Rabbo, the foreign personnel are observers, and the jail is under the full Palestinian sovereignty. (New York Times, April 29, 2002)
Morton A. Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), said: The Bush administration would never agree to placing Al Qaeda terrorists in an Afghanistani prison under the supervision of international monitors. And if a terrorist murdered a member of the U.S. cabinet and received 1, 4, 12, or 18 years in prison, that would be considered outrageously lenient. It is therefore disturbing that the administration has pressured Israel into accepting such a solution.
Analyzing the plan proposed by the Bush administration to deal with six of the terrorists who have been sheltered in Yasir Arafats Ramallah headquarters, the ZOA points out:
* Lenient Sentences: Four of the six terrorists have already been tried by one of Arafats kangaroo courts and given sentences of 18, 12, 4 and 1 year in prison, respectivelyterms which are outrageously lenient by American standards. (In the U.S., individuals who murdered political leaderssuch as the assassins of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther Kingreceived life in prison.) If a PA court decides to commute the sentences or grant parole to the terrorists, the American and British personnel will be helpless to stop them.
* Threat to American Personnel: The American and British personnel will be obvious targets for terrorist hostage-takers seeking to free their comrades from the facility. Even if the Americans and Britons carry light arms, they will be no match for a group of well-armed, organized terrorists.
* Escapes Are Likely: As long as the Palestinian Authority has the ultimate responsibility for keeping the terrorists in prison, staged escapes are likely. In the past, the PA has repeatedly claimed that terrorists have escaped from its prisons. Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy has said that the PA deliberately allows terrorists to escape from prison, pointing to the high incidence of supposed jailbreaks by dangerous prisoners each time the peace process hits a snag. (Haaretz, March 1, 2000)
* Previous U.S. Monitoring Failed: Under U.S. law, the State Department is required to monitor Arafats violations of the Oslo accords; but its biannual reports routinely whitewash and minimize the violations. Under the Wye agreement that the U.S. brokered between Israel and Arafat in October 1998, monitoring committees were established, with representatives from Israel, the PA, and the Central Intelligence Agency. But the committees have met only rarely, and the CIA has never acknowledged the PAs wanton violations of the Wye agreement.
* Dangerous Precedent: Those who advocate stationing an international peace-keeping force between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are already citing the Ramallah plan as a precedent. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal praised the Ramallah plan and added: We now want international forces to protect the Palestinians and ensure security along the lines of what was done in the Balkans. (New York Times, April 29, 2002)
The ZOA notes that Israel Radio reported on July 3, 2001 that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, since the Palestinians are carrying out terrorist attacks via underground operations, their activity, by definition, would not be witnessed by observers while the Israeli Armys activity would be observedthus leading to the situation that only Israeli activities would be reported by the observers. (Translation courtesy of IMRA.)
An editorial in The New Republic on August 6, 2001 said that foreign monitors will serve as an impediment to Israels freedom of action in its own defense and a shield for Palestinian terrorism Doesnt anybody remember anything about the career of international observers and U.N. forces in the Middle East and elsewhere? Who any longer knows the Straits of Tiran? But never mind the 1960s: the experience with UNIFIL in the 1980s and 1990s should be all we need to know. Anyway, there already exists a Temporary International Presence in Hebron, and it has accomplished exactly nothing.
The ZOA notes that terrorists on their way to carry out an attack would not be considered by the observers to be violating an Israel-PA cease-fire, since they did not yet carry out the attack, while Israel would be blamed if it strikes at them. Likewise, terrorists preparing to fire mortar rockets at Israel would not be considered to be violating the cease-fire until after they actually fire the rocketsby which time it would be too late for Israeli troops to prevent them from being fired.