Israelis Decry Release of 104 Palestinian Criminals Ahead of Peace Talks

Israelis accuse Netanyahu of caving to Obama administration demands

August 1, 2013

Israeli media outlets from across the political spectrum erupted in outrage following the news that Israel would release 104 imprisoned terrorists, including one who raped a 13-year-old boy before beating him to death with an iron pipe.

The prisoner release deal, which was orchestrated at the Obama administration’s urging, is meant to be a gesture of good will to the Palestinians ahead of scheduled peace talks.

The typically divided Israeli media erupted following the announcement, which also led many regional experts to question the Netanyahu government’s judgment.

On Monday, the headline in Israel’s top newspaper, the left-of-center Yedioth Ahronoth, read: "The Murderers Will Be Released."

The country’s second largest paper, Ma’ariv, described the prisoner release as "a Shylock deal" orchestrated by "the Americans, the Arabs, and the Europeans."

They are "asking the senior Jewish representative, the private and collective Israel: Cut some flesh from your body so that we will know that you are serious," Ma’ariv wrote.

An editorial in Israel’s English-language Jerusalem Post read, "Too High a Price" and blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for "footing the bill for the failure of the Palestinian leadership to prepare its people for peace."

The right-leaning Israel Hayom asked, "Why is US asking Israel to release terrorists?"

Among those 104 prisoners slated to be released is Ahmed Mahmed Jameel Shahada, who was dealt a 47-year sentence after he raped and murder a 13 year-old Israeli boy.

Another soon-to-be-free prisoner killed a Holocaust survivor.

Also on the release list is Kamal Awad Ali Ahmad, who is serving 16 life terms for torturing and killing 16 Jewish people.

Jerusalem bus bomber Abu Na’ame Abrahim Mahmus Samir, who killed six, also will be released.

The prisoners are scheduled to be released in four stages over the next nine months.

Recent polls of the Israeli public have shown that 80 percent of secular Jews and 95 percent of conservative ones strongly oppose the prisoner release.

Israelis do not understand why their leader would release these terrorists just to woo the Palestinians to Secretary of State John Kerry’s bargaining table.

"The scale of the unhappiness about freeing the latest round of killers and terrorists is larger by far than people seem to know, even here," said Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was killed when a Palestinian terrorist bombed a Jerusalem pizza shop.

Adi Moses spent years physically and mentally recovering after a terrorist threw a firebomb at her car when she was eight. Moses’ mother and brother died in the attack.

The terrorist who committed the crime will be set free from prison under the new deal.

"I am 34 years old but the last few days I have returned to being that eight-year-old facing that burning car and waiting for her mother to come out of it," Moses wrote in a recent article published by Yedioth Ahronoth.

"Yitzhak Rabin, who was Minister of Defense at the time of the attack, promised my dad that they will catch the terrorist," Moses wrote.  "And they did. And they sentenced him to two life sentences and another 72 years in prison. And you cabinet ministers with the wave of a hand you decided to free him."

The unpopular deal has led regional experts and others to question the Netanyahu government’s reasoning.

"This is the first time that Netanyahu is facing significant criticism from both left and right in Israel, who are on the same page on this issue," political and media analyst Tom Gross said. "Many in Israel who are scratching their heads as to Netanyahu’s motives, knowing that he is an intelligent man who must have been aware of the public outcry this issue would generate."

Kerry and others on team Obama are believed to have played a key role in pressuring Netanyahu to push through the prisoner release.

"There’s no point in addressing our disappointment and frustration at the Obama administration," Roth told the Washington Free Beacon.

"Why would the prime minister want to ram through a decision like this? Does he love the terrorists? No. Is he indifferent to the victims? Probably not," Roth said. "Is he unaware of how unpopular the decision is? No. Does he believe it will bring peace? No."

"The answer seems to be in the pressure being applied from Washington," Roth said.

Former Bush administration national security advisor Elliott Abrams said the Obama administration "caved" to Palestinian demands.

"It is morally wrong for us ever to pressure another government to release terrorists," Abrams said. "I wish we had not done that and I wish Israel had resisted."

"We should have said we do not release terrorists and we will not push friends to do so."

Netanyahu likely acquiesced because "he will go very far to satisfy American demands in these months leading up to decisions about striking Iran," Abrams added.

Israelis such as Roth say that Israel has paid too high a cost just to prod the Palestinians to the negotiating table for talks that will likely fail.

"I’m not aware of many voices in Israel who view the resumption of talks as a positive outcome because of the extreme wariness that exists right across the spectrum of today’s Israel," Roth said. "With few exceptions, even on the left-most fringes of public discourse here, people realize that the Abbas regime is incapable of delivering up a solution to their citizens that will get overt support."