New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the plan announced by the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert to release as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas 250 Palestinian Arab prisoners. Prime Minister Olmert announced the intended release during a joint press conference with Abbas held at Sharm el-Sheikh. Olmert stated, “As a gesture of goodwill to the Palestinians, and amid an understanding of the importance of the issue of the prisoners, I decided today that I’ll bring to the Israeli government at its next meeting a recommendation to release 250 prisoners from Fatah, without blood on their hands, as long as they sign commitments not to again become involved in terrorism” ( Jerusalem Post, June 25).
Abbas has demanded that Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Tanzim terror group that murdered many Israeli since the start of the Oslo war in September 2000, be included among the released prisoners. Olmert’s decision was criticized by Opposition Leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, who stated that the prisoner release “is a wrong, harmful message … Giving them guns and releasing their prisoners is a big mistake … For us, releasing prisoners would be crossing a red line. We must remember there are prices we can pay and prices we cannot afford to pay” ( Jerusalem Post, June 25).
Other criticisms of Olmert’s decision:
- Likud faction chairman, Gidon Sa’ar: This “will weaken Israel and bring about a renewal of terror attacks”
- National Union/National Religious Party Chairman Benny Elon” “Peace is made with nations, not with gangsters of Hamas or Fatah.”
- Nissan Slomiansky (NU/NRP): “Olmert has turned Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] into someone more saintly than the pope, while, at the same time, Fatah is responsible for dispatching suicide bombers to Israel.”
The previous release of hundreds of Palestinian Arab terrorists, in addition to encouraging further kidnappings for the purpose of wresting still more terrorists from Israeli jails, has been shown to lead to the murder of more Jews by released terrorists. A 2006 detailed report issued by the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA), shows 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, protested in April the proposal to release Palestinian Arab 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 previously released from Israeli jails ( Jerusalem Post, April 10). Also in April, 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).
ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, “The ZOA strongly opposed the release of hundreds of Palestinian Arab prisoners when it was first foreshadowed by the Olmert government in April and we oppose it now. As the ATVA report has shown, such exchanges have been proved in the past to result in further massive loss of innocent Jewish life.
“We do not understand and cannot accept the idea that the issue of prisoner releases is one that requires Israeli sensitivity to Palestinian wishes. If the Palestinian Arabs were serious about making peace with Israel, the last thing they would be doing is seeking the release of convicted murderers and attempted murderers. On the contrary, they would want to see that such people receive deserved punishment. That they don’t speaks volumes about their cause.
“The ZOA deeply sympathizes with 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. We strongly urge the Israeli government to reconsider this decision before it repeats the tragic mistakes of the past by releasing more jailed Palestinian terrorists.”