from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Does Freeing Murderers Bring Peace?

August 13, 2013

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Today Israel will free 26 murderers, a price exacted by the PLO before it would return to peace negotiations. Israel has entered into such deals before, for example freeing over 1,000 prisoners in exchange for the captured corporal Gilad Shalit. But in that case the decision was Israel’s own, and the United States rightly played no role. Weighing whether the maintenance of its policy of bringing every soldier home was worth the price was an Israeli, not an American, responsibility.

But today we have some moral responsibility for the prisoner releases, because we pushed for them as part of the way to get the PLO back to the table. The Jerusalem Post describes the crimes these men have committed, and here are examples:

Salah Ibrahim Ahmed Mugdad, who was arrested in June 1993 for the murder of Israel Tenenbaum, a 72-year-old security guard at the Sirens Hotel in Netanya. The Fatah member struck Tenenbauon on the head with an iron bar and stole a television set from the hotel....Mustafa Othman al-Haj, who was arrested in June 1989 for the murder of 48-year-old Steven Frederick Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld had been hiking in the hills near Ariel and was stabbed with his own knife by a group of shepherds, who hid his body....Atiyeh Salem Musa, who, along with an accomplice, used an ax to murder a Jewish co-worker, 67-year-old Isaac Rotenberg, during Passover 1994. The murder took place while Rotenberg was hunched on his knees fixing a floor at his place of employment in Petah Tikva. He was struck on the back of his neck, dying two days later.

The Wall Street Journal asked today "why anyone should expect that a peace process that begins by setting murderers free is likely to result in peace." But things will become even more macabre in the coming days, when the axe murderer, the stabber, the iron bar killer and all the rest are romanticized, celebrated, wined, dined, and officially received as great heroes by the PLO. It will be interesting to see what if anything the United States says about all of that. Will Secretary Kerry and his team maintain a polite silence, or utter the usual State Department words like "unfortunate" or perhaps "disappointing," or will they say they are disgusted and sickened by that display and that it makes peace much harder to achieve? Will they condemn the PLO and PA for it? Don’t count on it.

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