One of today’s PLO preconditions for negotiation with Israel — they change frequently — is for a release of “all Palestinian prisoners.” For example, the Times of Israel reported today that
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year offered to free 50 Palestinian security prisoners who have been held since before the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, in a bid to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the peace table, The Times of Israel has learned.
However, Abbas rejected the offer.
Today, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel, the Palestinians might agree to renew talks with Israel if Netanyahu releases all 107 of the pre-Oslo veterans still in jail, most of whom have blood on their hands.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the matter.
It’s important to understand that these demands are more than just an attempt by the PLO to get a concession from Israel without giving anything in return (although it is assuredly that).
Although the Arabs and their supporters will refer to these individuals as ‘political prisoners’, they have by and large been convicted of serious violent crimes, especially including murder. They are not imprisoned simply for their politics.
The demand for the release of prisoners is of great ideological and religious significance. In the PLO’s secular/postcolonialist Palestinian narrative, the Jews have no legitimacy in ‘Palestine’, and therefore do not have the right to imprison Arabs, the true ‘owners’ of the land. In addition, violent terrorism is the natural right of an ‘oppressed people’ trying to free themselves from colonialists.
From the standpoint of the Islamist Hamas, the actions of the prisoners constitute defensive jihad against Jews usurping land which is an Islamic waqf. Far from being criminals, they are heroes for doing their Allah-commanded duty.
For both groups the release of the prisoners would also humiliate the Jews, who would not be able to revenge themselves on the killers of their relatives (incidentally, this is another reason Israel should implement a death penalty for terrorist murder).
And both see themselves as fighting to reestablish Arab (as well as tribal and family) honor by recovering the possessions ‘stolen’ from them in the nakba of the founding of the Jewish state.
The release of these prisoners, therefore, would be a great victory and encouragement for the Palestinian cause, even if the prisoners themselves are no longer useful in the struggle. Expect a massive celebration when the ‘heroes’ return home.
As often happens, pragmatic Israelis miss the significance of ideology. The report continues:
It is understood that the Israeli security establishment has no objections on security grounds to the release of the 107 pre-Oslo veterans, particularly in light of the release of 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners to Hamas as part of the deal that saw the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity in Gaza in October 2011.
We can quibble about this, especially since some of those released in the Shalit deal did return to terrorist activity. But even if this is entirely true, the security aspect is only a small part of the significance of releasing Arabs that have murdered Jews.
The correct approach would be to apply the death penalty to murderers, and to imprison the others — and keep them imprisoned — under humiliating conditions.
If Israel would like to end Arab terrorism, the way to do it is by removing the incentives, not by making it pay.