August 7, 2013 By
Mark August 13 on your calendar. It’s claimed that a big celebration is being planned in Ramallah.
Of course, Americans—especially those living in the Middle East—have a lot more to occupy them these days.
On Tuesday, after a drone strike in Yemen had killed four Al Qaeda members, the U.S. (and Britain) told all their nonessential personnel in Yemen to leave the country immediately for fear of a major terror attack.
That came hard on the heels of Washington’s global travel alert on Friday, which led to the U.S. closing 21 embassies and consulates on Sunday mainly in Middle Eastern countries. The New York Times reported that the alert stemmed from intercepted messages between top Al Qaeda terrorists.
Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced that on August 13 Israel will be freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners—the first batch of a total of 104 supposed to be released in stages as part of the Israeli-Palestinian talks concocted by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Erekat is, of course, the veteran talking head with the calm demeanor and elegant English. In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian suicide-bombing campaign against Israel, he claimed in a vicious blood libel that Israel had killed 500 civilians in the Jenin refugee camp. Eventually even a UN fact-finding teamfound the charge totally baseless. To my knowledge Erekat has never been taken to task, let alone discredited, for blatant lying.
He may well, though, be telling the truth when he mentions upcoming festivities in Ramallah. Palestinian-affairs commentator Khaled Abu Toameh also reportsplans for a “big rally” there to welcome the freed prisoners.
The problem with these prisoners, of course, is that they’re the same sort of people who have been prompting alerts and shutdowns these last few days—terrorists.
They’re “pre-Oslo terrorists,” meaning their crimes were committed in 1993 or earlier. This should be of consolation only to those who think 20 years or so in prison is sufficient for acts of planned, deliberate murder, mostly of civilians including children.
True, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his cabinet approved the prisoner release. They did so after Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas made it a do-or-die precondition for launching “peace talks,” and after Kerry had been pressuring Jerusalem to comply for months.
Although Kerry, in his six visits to the region over the past four months, has been in Ramallah repeatedly, he won’t be attending the welcoming ceremony for the prisoners. U.S. officials, of course, don’t go to such events; it would be an insult to Israel, and what they’d see—one would like to think—would be unpleasant and discouraging.
For that matter, one doesn’t know if Kerry or any of his subordinates bother checking into similar phenomena, such as a newly reposted, official Facebook page of Fatah—Abbas’s movement and essentially Israel’s interlocutor in the talks—that glorifies a whole string of terrorist attacks and wipes Israel from the map.
Of course, all sorts of pragmatic reasons can be invoked for why Kerry had to push so hard for precisely these “peace talks”—mass terrorist-releases and all—precisely now. It will be said that it “looks good” if America is engaged in the Palestinian issue, or that Israel’s ongoing overlordship of the West Bank and denial of sovereignty to the Palestinian terror-culture is “untenable.”
The question, of course, is how far moral principles can be stretched; or why some terrorists deserve to be wiped out in drone strikes while—almost at the same time—others deserve to go scot-free.
Or whether America, confronting resurgent Al Qaeda, needs to be heavily pressuring a democratic ally into “peace talks” with an unrepentant terror-entity.
About P. David Hornik
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the new book Choosing Life in Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.