That’s the current state of affairs.
Yesterday, the High Court — totally as expected — rejected the appeals of families of terror victims and said that the State had the right, for diplomatic reasons, to effect the release of the first 26 Palestinian Arab terrorists.
And so, after midnight last night (the wee hours of Wednesday, the 14th) the arrangements were carried out by Prison Services, with some being bused to Ramallah and others to the Erez Crossing into Gaza.
For obvious reasons, Hamas forbid its populace to have public celebrations over the releases. This would have been an acknowledgement that Abbas had achieved something in the lead up to negotiations, which they are dead set against. (More below on this.)
For equally obvious reasons, the Palestinian Authority engaged in celebration as the prisoners were brought to the presidential compound. Israel had specifically requested that the welcome of the released be kept low key. But Israeli officials must have known they were blowin’ in the wind when they made that request: Israel cannot prevent us from celebrating, PA officials retorted. There was music, and there were fireworks. PA officials were there along with families, offering welcome.
Always and ever, please! keep in mind, and remind others, what sort of low life villains the Palestinian Authority is celebrating as heroes.
An epiphany: That the bad guys, our enemies, should achieve a victory of sorts such as this is disheartening, and indeed sickening. But there is another way to look at it. That they welcome vile murderers as heroes throws into stark relief the evidence of what sort of people they are. See Abbas rejoicing with terrorists:
Credit: Times of Israel
So, I would suggest, we are able to look at them, do our own rejoicing because of the difference between them and ourselves, and thank Heaven for that difference.
Even with the celebrations that were anticipated, once the names of the prisoners who were scheduled to be released had been announced, a note of discontent was also voiced in certain Palestinian Arab circles. That had to do with the fact that no Palestinian Arabs who hold Israel citizenship or Jerusalem residency were included.
Kadoura Fares, director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, referred to a “flaw” created by Israel’s selection of the first group of prisoners. He said it would be discussed by PA officials, who would seek to have input in future selections.
The reason why no Israel Arab prisoners were released is obvious: The government was trying to avoid riling the Israeli populace any more than it already had — and the release of Israeli citizens at the behest of Abbas would have been particularly contentious.
I am hardly the only one who feels that — as reprehensible as the release of any of the Palestinian Arab prisoners is — the release of Israeli Arab citizens who acted in ways they perceived as doing battle on behalf of an enemy, at the intercession of that enemy, is especially offensive. It should fall exclusively to Israel to deal with her own citizens.
Even now I ponder whether there is some way to stop their release from happening.
With this issue we step into the very thorny territory of the disloyalty of increasing numbers of Arabs who are Israeli citizens — who receive the rights and protections of Israel (and would not for anything opt to switch that for PA residency and the very dubious to non-existent rights and protections that would flow from this), and yet are prepared to identify with Israel’s enemy.
The fact is that in recent years Palestinian Arabs have deliberately prevailed upon Israeli Arab citizens to project loyalty to the PA “cause” rather than to Israel. This at the same time that we are accused of being “apartheid” by the PA. I am not suggesting that the PA prevails overtly upon Israeli Arabs to become terrorists, I am suggesting something more subtle. But that terrorist groups recruit among Israeli Arabs is unquestionably the case — and they are more susceptible to recruitment if they already identify with the PA.
I would shudder to think that PA authorities would have any say in which prisoners were selected for each subsequent release — if indeed all three projected releases are carried out.
At the hearing before the High Court, when the families of victims were petitioning for the halt to the release, a representative of the State said that subsequent releases were conditional on the “peace talks.” If the talks did not proceed, then there was an “option” to not release further prisoners.
An “option”? Does this suggest that maybe talks will collapse and we’ll continue with the releases anyway? (That would be what Abbas would demand, surely, claiming that it was Israel’s fault that talks failed.)
A different interpretation: Less than two weeks ago, Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni said release of further prisoners will depend upon the progress of the talks.
No way to pin down Israeli intentions on this now. Diplomats have said that Netanyahu does intend to demand in the future that dangerous prisoners who are released be deported out of the area — something Abbas has declared will not happen.
What is greatly distressing, if true, with regard to those who were selected for the current release, is a report from Maariv: Apparently the responsible committee ignored recommendations of the Shin Bet (Israeli internal security), which had provided a list of 40 prisoners — who represented the least security threat — from which to select the 26.
Some of those names were reportedly passed over and others substituted because they had more popularity in the Palestinian Arab street and thus might provide a bigger boost to the popularity of Abbas.
I give credence to this is part because elsewhere I read that there had been some changes in the list before it was released.
Heading that committee was Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. And my immediate response was, Bogie? Even Bogie? He did vote for the prisoner release, which was a great disappointment. I know that he knows better, which makes it even more painful, if true, than if he actually believed peace with the PA was around the corner. (See his cynical assessment below.)
Did the PA have input into the matter of which prisoners have the most street popularity?
And so, as far as we know, “negotiations” did begin today here in Jerusalem, with the agenda, the place and the time kept secret. There is supposed to be a full media blackout as talks proceed, but I see this as exceedingly unlikely — most particularly from the PA side.
Moshe Ya’alon told reporters (emphasis added):
“We set ourselves the goal of nine months in which we will try to reach something with the Palestinians. We’ve been trying for 20 years since Oslo, and for over 120 years of the conflict. The skepticism in the tone of my remarks is apparent, but we’ve decided to give it a chance.”
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Gaza-based Hamas official, has made it clear that Hamas will not be bound by any outcome of the negotiations. This is hardly a surprise.
But we need to follow this further: Hamas officials are angry that “the PA has dealt the final blow to reconciliation talks.” Thus, says Al-Zahar, Hamas needs to isolate Abbas and strip him of any authority to negotiate.
Hamas intentions to undermine Abbas among his own people, and to destabilize the PA, represent yet other reasons not to negotiate with the PA. Abbas is without the backing to make his actions credible and is exceedingly vulnerable.
A handful of prisoners that are popular on the street may have been released by Israel in an attempt to garner further support for him. But in the end that will be a very small matter that does not significantly alter the situation. The mere fact that there was concern about the need to strengthen Abbas speaks volumes.
I note here that the talks presumably have begun in spite of the pronunciations of Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official. who was put out with the very recent announcement of an additional almost 800 apartments to be built in Jerusalem neighborhoods past the Green Line.
Abed Rabbo said the approval of this building “could” (not “would”) bring about the “collapse” of the talks: “This settlement expansion is unprecedented. It threatens to make talks fail even before they have started.”
Mere talk only — the sort of carrying on that we might expect. What was more interesting to me was that almost immediately Kerry advised that no one should get too upset about this.
It was clear as it might be then that there had been an understanding between Kerry and Netanyahu. I can imagine Netanyahu telling Kerry that the only way he could pull off the prisoner release was if he made the right wing of his government happy by approving building. And indeed, subsequently Kerry acknowledged that Netanyahu had told him forthrightly that since there was no agreement with regard to a building freeze there would be building.
This is what he said yesterday (emphasis added):
“Let me make it clear: The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate, and we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the peace process.
But – here’s the but – that said, Prime Minister Netanyahu was completely upfront with me and with President Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would take place in places that will not affect the peace map, that will not have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement. That means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many people make a presumption – obviously not some Palestinians or others – will be part of Israel in the future. He has specifically agreed not to disturb what might be the potential for peace going forward.
Now, we still believe it would be better not to be doing it, but there are realities within life in Israel that also have to be taken into account here going forward.
I note here that he says that Abbas was informed of this, and so we can assume that all the PA grandstanding is just that. What is more, that they lied when they said, as they did, that Kerry promised that there would be no building.
Altogether, I find this an interesting state of affairs. Is Kerry starting to publicly indicate impatience with Abbas?
What Kerry said here about the Israeli position represents it accurately. The prime minister’s office is saying that building will take place only in blocs in Judea and Samaria or in neighborhoods in Jerusalem that we would be retaining in any negotiated agreement. The notion that our building in neighborhoods such as Gilo or Har Homa represents a threat to “the peace process” is beyond ridiculous, frankly.
Of course Uri Ariel, Housing and Construction Minister, says:
“No other nation on the planet accepts diktats from other countries on where it can build and where it can’t. We’re going to continue issuing tenders for apartments and we’re going to build all over Israel, according to our citizens’ needs.”
What I can report with certainty is Israeli delight at the prospect of housing being constructed, when there has been a shortage for some while. I’ve noted this before: the construction of housing in Israel so often carries political implications that are assumed to be paramount.
But the bottom line is that people in Israel need places to live. We are, thank Heaven, a growing population. We have more children per couple than Jews anywhere else in the world. Our kids grow up, get married, and seek homes of their own.