New York – In a letter to Prime Minister Olmert, signed by National President Morton A. Klein, Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chairman of Executive Committee Dr. Alan Mazurek, and Treasurer Henry Schwartz, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has strongly opposed a reported willingness by the Israeli government to exchange hundreds of jailed terrorists in return for one kidnapped Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Schalit, because it will lead to the murder by terrorists of more innocent Jews; provide an incentive to terrorist groups to kidnap more Israelis; give Hamas a massive propaganda boost in the Arab world; and to give newly captured terrorists an expectation of future early releases. The ZOA letter also quotes the words of Joyce Boim, whose 17 year old son, David, was murdered by a Palestinian Arab terrorist, “We do not want any more widows or widowers or parents without children. The terrorists were jailed for a reason.”
The ZOA letter cited a 2006 detailed report issued by the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA), showing that between the years 1993-1999, Israel released 6,912 terrorists within the context of “confidence building measures” and prisoner deals. Of that number, 854 (14%) were arrested subsequently for lethal terrorists acts which claimed he lives of 123 Israelis. All of the terrorists thus freed were released with assurances to the public that they did not have “blood on their hands” — Israel considers terrorists who have not themselves pulled the trigger but who have recruited, trained and sent bombers as people without blood on their hands, which is of course absurd. The ATVA report concluded, “The mass killing due to these attacks included … a huge number of victims with disabilities due to the attack and many other victims. In all the previous death-bargains, the overwhelming majority of those released returned to terrorist activities, at the cost of a huge destruction of life.”
Meir Indor, Director of ATVA, has now protested the current proposed release of Palestinian prisoners and disclosed that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the last five years were killed by Palestinians “without blood on their hands” who had been released from Israeli jails ( Jerusalem Post, April 10).
Only yesterday, the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that 35 Israelis had been murdered by prisoners Israel released in exchange for Elchanan Tennenbaum, an Israeli businessman kidnapped by Hizballah. Hanegbi said that “it is a supreme Israeli interest to honor the principle that murderers are not released” ( Independent Media & Review Analysis, April 13).
Jerusalem Post Managing Editor and Center for Security Policy Middle East Fellow Caroline Glick has argued that by “releasing terrorists, the Olmert-Peretz-Livni government is signing the death warrants of hundreds more Israelis.” Glick also revealed that the twin bus bombings in Beersheba on August 31, 2004, which claimed the lives of 16 Israelis, were planned by Hamas’ Matzeb Hasalmon. Hasalmon had been previously jailed by Israel for membership in Hamas but released on January 29, 2004, not having been convicted of murder. Similarly, a further two suicide bombings that claimed the lives of a further 16 Israelis on September 9, 2003 were planned by Iyad Suwalha, who Israel released in 1999 after seven years because he had not murdered any Israelis ( Jerusalem Post, April 9).
Despite these facts, a senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official has revealed that a three-phase deal is being hammered out under which Israel would first release 400 prisoners and all Hamas ministers and legislators who were arrested over the past year. In return, Corporal Gilad Schalit would be handed over to the Egyptian authorities. In the second phase, Israel would release 450 prisoners who are serving lengthy sentences and leaders of various Palestinian factions. In return, the Egyptians would hand Schalit over to Israel. In the third phase, another 550 Palestinians would be released by Israel in two stages 30 days after the return of Schalit, making a total of 1,400 prisoners to be released by Israel ( Jerusalem Post, April 10).
The terrorists to be released under this plan include:
- Marwan Barghouti, Fatah terrorist commander, currently serving five life sentences for five counts of murder and attempted murder;
- Ahmed Saadat , Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader, who orchestrated the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001;
- Hassan Yussef, a top Hamas leader in the West Bank;
- Abdallah Barghouti, a commander of Hamas’ armed wing responsible for scores of suicide bombings in which dozens of people were killed;
- Yahya Sinwar, one of the founders of Hamas’ armed wing who has been in prison for more than 20 years;
- Hassan Salameh, a Hamas member who planned a series of suicide bombings in Israel in the mid-1990s;
- Abdel Khalek Natsheh, a senior Hamas representative in the West Bank;
- Rouhi Mushtahi, a former commander of Hamas’ armed wing;
- Bassam Sa’edeh, one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank; and
- Fuad Shubaki, a former aide to Yasser Arafat who was accused of involvement in the 2001 attempt to smuggle a weapons ship into the Gaza Strip
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA is opposed to this or any plan which calls for the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists in return for one or more kidnapped Israelis. Such exchanges have been proved in the past to result in further massive loss of innocent Jewish life. The ZOA shares and feels the great pain felt by Israeli families and others when their sons are kidnapped by terrorists. We would support virtually any efforts to bring them home safely. But when the record clearly shows that prisoner releases bring only more terror, more murder and more kidnappings of Jewish people, we painfully must accept the fact, that we will save more Israeli lives by not rewarding kidnappings through prisoner releases.
“It is clear that even prisoners who can be described as ‘not having blood on their hands’ often fall into that category simply because their terror plans failed, or because others pulled the trigger. This makes them attempted murderers. We are fooling ourselves if we believe releasing such people will not lead to further murder and maiming of innocent Israeli men, women and children. It is also a travesty of justice that murders and attempted murderers go free without serving their sentences.
“The statistics clearly show that hundreds of Israelis have lost their lives to terrorism carried out by released prisoners, and that doesn’t even take account of the far larger number of civilians maimed and injured in the same attacks. Also, releasing jailed terrorists in exchange for kidnapped Israelis is the best imaginable incentive for Hamas and other terrorist movements to kidnap more Israelis in the future in order to free more of their jailed killers. So-called ‘prisoner exchanges’ thus only encourage and produce more terrorism. Additionally, any such prisoner release to Hamas would simply boost its standing and provide a form of retrospective justification for its terrorism against Israel as well as the genocidal ideology contained in its Charter. One can imagine the huge victory parade that Hamas will stage if and when these terrorists are released and the surge in prestige and support for Hamas that will follow in the Palestinian Arab street, further promoting Hamas’ horrific agenda. We urge the Israeli government not to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past by releasing more jailed Palestinian terrorists.”