Israel sending problematic message

Op-ed: Palestinian prisoners who will not be released this time around will wait for the next Gilad Shalit

Of the 1,005 Palestinian prisoners who were released as part of the Shalit deal, 44 have already been arrested for involvement in terror. The prisoners are cultural heroes on the Palestinian street. A national consensus. Whenever a new round of talks with Israel begins, the Palestinians ask for the release of prisoners as an entrée and, if possible, for dessert as well. As far as they are concerned, the release of prisoners has been the only achievement of the peace negotiations since the Oslo days. It's hard to argue with their diplomatic reasoning.


From Israel's perspective, the message is problematic. A justice system that regularly acts in contradiction to its own rulings is hard to explain. Prisoners who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms are released following diplomatic decisions. Someone has to be wrong here – the judges who send the Palestinians to such long periods in prison or the system that releases them before they have completed their terms. The list of prisoners who are slated to be released next as a gesture to the Palestinian Authority includes some who had been sentenced to multiple life terms.


The Americans pressured Israel to release the prisoners. Washington calls it a "tolerable price" - prisoners in exchange for renewed peace negotiations. Netanyahu, for his part, asked once again that the US release Jonathan Pollard, but he was denied. The "tolerable price" demanded of Israel is not applied to the Pollard case.


Those who will not be released from prison will wait for the next opportunity; for the next Gilad Shalit. The release of prisoners creates motivation. Despite the revolving door in Israel, the government still lacks a clear policy regarding who is released, who isn't, and when. The result is that the government is not in charge of the prisoners issue; it is being controlled according to the developments.


One example is the Shamgar Commission, which was established to examine ways to deal with cases of kidnappings of Israelis, civilians or soldiers. Following the release of terrorists as part of the Shalit deal, the government pledged to adopt the commission's recommendations in order to stop the mass release of Palestinian prisoners. But nothing ever materialized.


The same stagnation can be seen with regards to the to prisoners' comfortable conditions behind bars: Academic studies, satellite TV and family visits. Nothing has changed. The judges judge, the prisoners walk, and the politicians do not make decisions- with or without a referendum.



פרסום ראשון: 07.29.13, 10:30
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