against the prisoner release

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 6, 2003
    Editorial: Against the prisoner release

    The premature release of convicted terrorists is a slap in the face of justice and the rule of law. As long as the victims of terrorists cannot be revived, the thought of the terrorists who murdered them walking free remains repugnant, regardless of diplomatic considerations.

    Prisoner releases are normal at the end of wars, when peace treaties are signed. But most of the Palestinians in our jails do not qualify on either score: They did not fight as if in war, and they would not be released in the context of peace.
    In war, armies fight other armies, and at the end, exchange prisoners. The terrorist war fought against us, however, was a gigantic war crime: It targeted civilians in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention and every other conception of international law.

    The Palestinians have shown no recognition that the way they fought was anything but legitimate. Their immediate demand to release prisoners as if they were normal prisoners of war reflects the attempt to treat terrorism as an acceptable mode of conflict.

    At least as egregious, however, is the expectation that prisoners would be released, not as part of a peace settlement, but a cease-fire. Even in a normal war in which prisoner releases are eventually to be expected, neither side suggests releasing them during a cease-fire.

    A cease-fire is by definition not the end of hostilities: that is the distinction between a cease-fire and peace. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, even in their cease-fire declaration, explicitly reject the existence of and peace with the "Zionist enemy."

    Why should Israel consider releasing people who do not even deny that they plan to attack us again?

    The same goes for Fatah prisoners, especially since Fatah proudly claims responsibility for a good portion of the terrorism against Israel. But let us say for a moment that a distinction can be made between Fatah, which is ostensibly committed to a two-state solution, and the Islamist groups that overtly seek Israel's destruction. Even on this basis, and even if they were not war criminals, Fatah prisoners do not qualify for release because peace has not been declared.

    In his letter to Yitzhak Rabin that paved the way to the handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993, Yasser Arafat committed to the "peaceful resolution of the conflict ... and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations." This was simply a lie; the Palestinian leadership intended and prepared to use violence from the beginning if it did not get its way.

    Now we are expected to buy the same bridge again, and believe that if Israel rejects the demand of "return" or refuses to divide Jerusalem that they will not resort to force again.

    It is one thing to release some of the administrative detainees that are filling Israel's prisons. But Israel should tell the Palestinians that terrorists are not prisoners of war, and therefore will serve out their full terms.

    The release of Suleiman Abu Mutlak is particularly disturbing on this score. "Colonel" Abu Mutlak was a senior officer in the PA's Preventative Security Service in Gaza. A senior Israeli security official reportedly said Abu Mutlak was "up to his neck in terrorism. When you're talking about terrorists with blood on their hands, he's the one. We worked to capture him for a long time, and his release is a serious mistake." Among the attacks Abu Mutlak is suspected to have been involved in was the bombing of a school bus from Kfar Darom that killed two and wounded dozens, including three children from the Cohen family, all of whom lost their legs.

    Abu Mutlak was supposedly released due to "lack of evidence," but his close relations with PA security chief Muhammad Dahlan seem to be the real explanation. If such a demeaning gesture were to contribute to the possibilities of peace, that would perhaps be understandable. Instead, such releases teach the lesson that we do not take the rule of law or the distinction between war and terrorism seriously nor are there any consequences to being lied to and betrayed.

 
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