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Shaul Rosenfeld
Repeating the mistake
Latest release of Palestinian prisoners no more than a tragic farce

"He really wants to help us prevent terror; it's Hamas and Jihad that hinder him," this is what our new president, Shimon Peres, repeatedly said in favor of the first Palestinian president, Yasir Arafat, during the bloodiest days of the mid-1990s.

 

The oh-so-typical Peres distinction between Palestinians who do everything they can in order to assist us, and their brothers who rush to interfere, marked the dawn of the era of weak and unrealistic explanations largely detached from reality. It also assisted in shaping the perception and distinction still with us to this day between good Palestinians and bad ones.

 

This distinction is the premise for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's arguments in favor of releasing 250 Palestinian prisoners, removing another 180 terrorists from the wanted list, and permitting five arch-terrorists to enter the West Bank.

 

Yet the more this distinction lost touch with reality, the greater the hold it gained among the hard Oslo-supporting core in our midst. Arafat, who was safely placed on the side of those who avoid evil, nonetheless freely expressed his desires and thoughts regarding what should be done to us and what is the role of the Oslo agreements in the mission, for example, in his speeches in Johannesburg in 1994 and in Stockholm in 1996.

 

The Palestinian president, who was part of the good guys, not only delivered speeches regarding the Jews, but also acted on them, and particularly acts which he pledged and swore to wholly avoid.

 

Yet later, when evidence and facts piled up showing that he and his agents were deeply involved in terror acts and funding, and hiding this from public view became an impossible mission, even Peres agreed to mutter that "Arafat is making mistakes," as if we were dealing with an almost unconscious minor blunder rather than a clear and consistent ideology.

 

This was done, of course, without undermining at all that mythical distinction between those on our side (Arafat and members of his tribe) and those who are our enemies (Hamas and Islamic Jihad.)

 

At times, "changes and modifications" are required with regards to the "good and kind" Palestinians, and after the old president's charm waned even in the eyes of Shimon Peres, and particularly after he passed away, a "good hope" emerged in the form of Mahmoud Abbas, with the most fussy amongst us apparently turning to this new hope with calls of "long live, long live, long live!"

 

'Oslo Israel's greatest mistake'

Yet as it were, the new president decided not to deviate from the old path and in a Gaza lecture in 2001 declared: "Israel made the greatest mistake in its history when it signed the Oslo agreement." For those who found this difficult to grasp, Abbas gave yet another chance in yet another lecture: "This (Oslo) is the only basis (for ties) between us and Israel. When it runs its course, the end will also come to the justification for the partnership between us…with the exception of the cannon."

 

But maybe it is just a matter of Abbas making mistakes, and 2001 is a prehistoric period really in our ever-changing region. After all, business dealings should involve pragmatic and practical partners, such as Jibril Rajoub for example. And wonder of wonders, the good old Rajoub declared just several months ago that the Palestinians will eventually take over every grain of sand in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

 

And so, similarly to Marx' argument that history repeats itself twice, once as a tragedy and once as a farce, in our parts the tragedy and farce do not make do with a one-time consecutive performance, but rather, mix together in endless rounds of folly, with most leaders since Oslo clinging to both the former and the latter and refusing to let go.

 

And it does not matter at all how many rounds we saw of released prisoners who go back to carrying out bloody terror attacks against us, for us there is always room for another round, with all the blood, tragedy, and farce this entails.

 

The last removal of terrorists from the wanted list took place in 2001 and the last prisoner release took place in 2005, and as if it was a "wholly unexpected mishap," most of those released and cleared up, who pledged to never return to the path of terror, decided there was no reason to stand by that pledge. "If our king, Arafat, did not stand by his pledge, why should we honor it?" they said, and returned to their old job…until the next round of folly.

 

And alongside the "noble and proven" objectives at the basis of prisoner releases, such as bolstering the "good guys" Abbas and Rajoub, there is also the hope that strengthening them would also bolster their ability, vigor, and desire to prevent their Hamas and Islamic Jihad brethren from realizing their terrorist plans.

 

And so, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Abbas' own flesh and blood, whose members are responsible for more than 50 percent of the terror attacks and attempted attacks even after they are released, cleared up, and make pledges – are the ones who are again supposed to fight their brethren without the constraints of the High Court or human rights groups.

 

Indeed, it appears the mistake keeps being repeated, but when we run out of erasure while there are still pencils left, one starts suspecting that we cannot extract ourselves from this folly.

 

Dr Shaul Rosenfeld is a philosophy lecturer

 

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