New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is opposing the decision yesterday of the Ehud Olmert’s government to release 250 Palestinian Arab prisoners belonging to Fatah, the terrorist group co-founded by Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas. The Olmert government says that those being released will be members of Fatah who do not have “blood on their hands,” the usual term to denote prisoners who did not personally participate in terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of innocent Israeli civilians. In fact, prisoners in that category have included those who recruited, trained and dispatched suicide bombers.
Public Security Minister (Kadima) Avi Dichter, Transportation Minister (and former Defense Minister and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff), Shaul Mofaz, Israel Beiteinu’s Strategic Affairs Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and all four Shas ministers voted against the release ( Jerusalem Post, July 8).
Previous mass releases 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. 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 President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA has consistently opposed the release of Palestinian Arab prisoners by Israel. As the ATVA report has shown, such exchanges have been proved in the past to result in further massive loss of innocent Jewish life. 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 or detonated the bomb. This makes them attempted murderers or accessories to murder. 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.
“Additionally, releasing jailed terrorists makes no sense. Mahmoud Abbas is neither a moderate nor peace-maker but even if he was both, such a release of a large number of terrorists belonging to his organization would be a terrible mistake. Consider: if Mahmoud Abbas was serious about ending terrorism and making peace, a signed Palestinian obligation under the Oslo agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan, the last thing he would want is to have hundreds of freed terrorists roaming the streets of the PA. A leader committed to rooting out terror would want such men to remain behind bars, not agitate for their release.
“The ZOA deeply sympathizes with Israeli families and others when their sons are kidnapped by terrorists. As we have said on previous occasions, 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.”