ZOA Opposes Israel Releasing 200 Jailed Terrorists, Including 149 Attempted Murderers
August 19, 2008


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is opposing the Olmert government’s plan to release approximately 200 Palestinian prisoners who do not have “blood on their hands” – a euphemism for prisoners whose attempted acts of terrorism designed to murder innocents failed to prove fatal – 149 of whom have been convicted for attempted murder of Israeli civilians. The planned release comes as a “gesture of goodwill” to the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, whom Israel is under international pressure to shore up. According to the Almagor Terror Victims Association (ATVA), of these 149 terrorists guilty of attempted murder, 54 have served less than half their sentences and 63 have been sitting in jail only since 2007. In addition, two of the terrorists to be released do have “blood on their hands” (Dr Aaron Lerner, ‘Almagor: 149 of the terrorists slated for release serving time for attempting murder,’ Independent Media Review Analysis, August 18, 2008).


According to a senior Israel Defense Ministry official, the latest planned release of terrorists is opposed by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). The official was quoted as saying, “You have to hear the responses inside the Shin Bet to the release. They work day and night to capture and neutralize terrorists, and all of it is gone in an instant … [About 40 percent of security prisoners are released before completing their sentences] People in the Shin Bet end up asking, ‘Why do we capture these people? Where did all my work go? Where is the deterrence?’ … A terrorist who plants an explosive device gets 10 years in prison but will end up being released after three or four years. This hurts the motivation in the Shin Bet” (Yaacov Lappin, ‘Shin Bet upset over prisoner release,’ Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2008).


Palestinian affairs analyst, Khaled Abu Toameh writes, “The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails strengthens the ‘moderates’ has never proven to be correct. The best way to strengthen the ‘moderates’ at this stage is by putting pressure on them to reform the PA and end financial corruption and the state of lawlessness and chaos in the West Bank. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords 15 years ago, Israel – citing the need to strengthen ‘moderate’ Palestinians – has released thousands of security prisoners. Ironically, in some cases the released prisoners turned out to be a big headache for the ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership. Shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel freed hundreds of Fatah security prisoners with the hope that they would help Yasser Arafat and his security forces in imposing law and order and fighting Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But many of the released prisoners soon became involved in various criminal activities ranging from armed robberies, extortion, theft and arms trafficking. Others later joined Hamas and other radical groups and became actively involved in armed attacks on Israel during the second intifada. They also became a financial burden on the shoulders of the PA, which had to put the local ‘heroes’ on its payroll and pay them salaries, although many of them were not doing any work” (Khaled Abu Toameh, ‘Analysis: Prisoner release does nothing for Abbas,’ Jerusalem Post, August 18, 2008).


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 the 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, disclosed in April that 177 Israelis killed in terror attacks in the last five years were killed by Palestinians who had been previously released from Israeli jails on the basis that they were “without blood on their hands” (Jerusalem Post, April 10).


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We see again, only weeks after the tragic mistake of Israel releasing the proud multiple murderer of Jews Samir Kuntar and other terrorists in return for Jewish corpses, that the Olmert government still does not understand the immense harm it is doing to Israel and the danger it is increasing to the lives of its citizens by releasing terrorists.


“The ZOA has consistently opposed the release of Palestinian Arab prisoners by Israel, not merely because doing so provides excellent incentives for kidnapping more Israelis and thus freeing more terrorists held by Israel, but because, as the ATVA has clearly shown, such exchanges result in further massive loss of innocent Jewish life. It is clear that prisoners the Israeli government is defining 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, which are signed Palestinian obligations 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; he would not be agitating for their release. Additionally, as Khaled Abu Toameh points out, releasing Fatah terrorists will do next to nothing to help Abbas anyway, even assuming that such an objective was desirable.


“As I have said on previous occasions, the ZOA deeply sympathizes with the families of kidnapped Israelis. 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. Considerations of justice, morality, prudence and security all dictate that exchanging jailed terrorists for kidnapped Israeli soldiers is liable to cause more kidnappings, strengthen terrorist groups and result in more innocent Jewish life being shed.”



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