Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price

, August 24, 2008

Vol. 8, No. 8     August 24, 2008

 

  • The Israeli Cabinet approved on August 17 the release of almost 200 Palestinian security prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The list includes several prisoners “with blood on their hands,” who, by definition, were involved in the murder of Israelis.
  • According to an informal estimate by Israeli security bodies, about 50 percent of the terrorists freed for any reason whatsoever returned to the path of terror, either as perpetrator, planner, or accomplice. In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded.
  • Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners and five other prisoners in return for Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was held captive by Hizbullah, and for the bodies of three soldiers kidnapped on Mount Dov. According to Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi, from the date of the deal on January 29, 2004, until April 17, 2007, those freed in the deal had murdered 35 Israelis.
  • An investigation by the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel revealed that at least 30 of the terrorist attacks perpetrated since 2000 were committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations. Many were freed in the framework of goodwill gestures because they were defined by Israel as “without blood on their hands.” The bloody swath cut by these terrorists claimed the life of 177 persons, with many others wounded and made invalids.  

Another “Goodwill Gesture”

In anticipation of the return to the Middle East of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Israeli Cabinet approved on August 17 the release of almost 200 Palestinian security prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The list includes several prisoners “with blood on their hands,” who, by definition, were involved in the murder of Israelis.

Since 1985 the State of Israel has freed over 10,000 Palestinians who were serving prison sentences for hostile activity or terror actions, and this resulted in the murder and death of hundreds of Israeli citizens. Some of the Palestinian terrorists were freed in the framework of deals with terror organizations that involved the exchange of a few isolated Israelis who were taken captive by the terrorists, for hundreds and thousands of terrorists. Another portion were freed in the framework of what were termed diplomatic “goodwill gestures.” Sometimes the terrorists were freed because their prison terms had been concluded or shortened.1

According to an informal estimate by Israeli security bodies, about 50 percent of the terrorists freed for any reason whatsoever returned to the path of terror, either as a perpetrator,  planner or accomplice. In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded.2In the case of the Jibril deal in 1985, the Israel Defense Ministry determined that 114 out of the 238 who were released returned to terrorism. During 1993-1999, 6,912 terrorists were freed in the wake of various diplomatic agreements, and 854 of them (12.4 percent) returned to terrorist activity, carried out terrorist attacks, murdered or planned to harm Israeli citizens, and were reincarcerated.3

Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners and five other prisoners in return for Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was held captive by Hizbullah, and for the bodies of three soldiers kidnapped on Mount Dov. The deal was transacted in Cologne, Germany, on January 29, 2004. According to the information provided by Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, from that date and until April 17, 2007, those freed in the Tannenbaum deal had murdered 35 Israelis.4

A comprehensive investigation recently conducted by the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel revealed that at least 30 of the terrorist attacks perpetrated since 2000 were committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations. Many were freed in the framework of deals, understandings, or goodwill gestures because they were defined by Israel as “without blood on their hands.” The bloody swath cut by these terrorists claimed the life of 177 persons, with many others wounded and made invalids. These statistics have been informally confirmed by security officials.5

Victims and Murderers

Dr. David Applebaum, head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Shaarei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his 20-year-old daughter Nava, were murdered by a suicide bomber on September 9, 2003, when they went to Café Hillel on Emek Refaim Street in central Jerusalem. Nava was to be married the next day. The murderer, Ramez Sali Abu Salim, from Rantis, northwest of Ramallah, had been freed from an Israeli prison in 2002. He was rearrested a few months later, but was freed again on February 20, 2003. Seven months later he was sent by the Hamas command in Ramallah to commit a terror attack in the heart of Jerusalem.

Also killed in this terror attack were Alon Mizrachi, 20; Gila Moshe, 40; Yehiel Emil Toubol, 50; David Shimon Avizdris, 51; and Shafik Yihya Karem, 22, from Beit Hanina. An additional 60 people were wounded.

The famous Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israeli prison for five acts of murder, was arrested for the first time in 1976 for hostile activity. After being freed, he became one of the leaders of the first intifada in 1987. Arrested again by Israel, he was expelled to Jordan. Permitted to return in the framework of the Oslo agreements (1994), he became the general secretary of the Fatah organization on the West Bank. With the start of the second intifada, Barghouti became the leader of the Tanzim, which was responsible for many terror attacks against Israelis. Some were carried out under the name of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. In April 2002 he was arrested, placed on trial, and in May 2004 he was convicted of five acts of murder. The prosecution waived 21 additional murder charges and 33 other charges.6

Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was first arrested in 1983, after guns were seized in his home. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for holding weapons, establishing a military organization and calling for the liquidation of the State of Israel, but was freed by Israel 1985 in the framework of the Jibril deal.7In 1987 Yasin established and headed the terror organization Hamas. In 1989 he ordered the killing of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, and he subsequently commanded the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers. For these crimes, Yasin was given a life sentence. He was freed in 1997 as part of an agreement between Israel and Jordan after the botched assassination attempt by the Mossad on Khaled Mashaal in Jordan. After his release, Yasin resumed preaching violence and terror, and the IDF and the Israel Security Agency reported to the government that Yasin was involved in planning terrorist attacks on the operative level. On March 22, 2004, he was killed by missiles fired by Israel Air Force combat helicopters.8

Freed Murderers Kill Again

Abdullah Abd Al-Kadr Kawasme was originally arrested in 1988, following the murder of policeman Nissim Toledano, and was exiled together with 400 Hamas and Jihad activists. Upon his return to Israel, he was imprisoned and charged with membership in Hamas and involvement in hostile terrorist activity, and was released in 1994. He was responsible for many terrorist attacks including the infiltration into the community of Adura on April 27, 2002, where four people were killed, including five-year-old Danielle Shefi. Kawasme was also responsible for the infiltration of the community of Carmei Tzur on August 6, 2002, in which three people were murdered; two suicide bombings carried out in tandem in Jerusalem on May 18, 2003, in which six people were killed and 20 wounded; and a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in June 2003 in which 17 people were killed and 105 were wounded. Kawasme was killed by the IDF on June 21, 2003.

Karim Ratteb Younis Awis was serving a life sentence for causing the death of a collaborator, but was released in a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians. On November 27, 2001, he dispatched two terrorists who opened fire on civilians at the central bus station in Afula, murdering Michal Mor and Noam Guzofsky and wounding an additional 84 people.9

Nasser Abu Hameid, who had been given five life sentences for the murder of five collaborators, was released in September 1999 in the framework of the Sharm el Sheikh Agreement. After the outbreak of the second intifada, he was documented mutilating the corpses of IDF reserve soldiers Vadim Norzitz and Yossi Avrahami. In December 2000 he murdered Binyamin and Talia Kahane near Givat Zeev. In February 2002 he was involved in plotting the terrorist attack in which policewoman Galit Arbiv was murdered in Neve Yaakov, and he commanded the murder of Gadi Rejwan in the Atarot industrial zone in northern Jerusalem. In March 2002 he was responsible for a terror bombing at the Seafood Restaurant where Eliyahu Dahan, Yossi Havi, and policeman Salim Barakat were murdered. In December 2002 he was sentenced to seven life terms for the murder of seven Israelis and was convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder and additional crimes.

Abbas ibn Muhammad Mustafa Alsayd was released in 1996 after three years in prison for directing disturbances in Tulkarm. He was responsible for many terror attacks and in September 2005 he was convicted of murdering 35 people and wounding hundreds in the terror attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya on the eve of Passover, March 27, 2002, and at the HaSharon Mall in Netanya on May 18, 2001.10

Matsab Hashalmon was released from jail as part of the “Tennenbaum deal” on January 29, 2004. Three months later he recruited suicide terrorists Ahmed Kawasme and Nissim Jaabari, who blew themselves up on August 31, 2004, on two buses in Beersheba, killing 16 civilians and wounding scores of others.

Iyad Sawalha headed the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Samaria. He was imprisoned for two years for his involvement in the murder of collaborators and was freed in 1998 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. On June 5, 2002, he was responsible for blowing up a bus at Megiddo junction where 17 people were murdered and another 42 were wounded. On October 21, 2002, he was responsible for detonating an explosive-laden jeep near a bus at Karkur, leaving 14 people murdered and scores wounded.

The list of freed terrorists and their victims goes on and on.

Israel’s Dilemma

The Victims of Arab Terror International has appealed many times to the High Court of Justice against the freeing of terrorists, but all the petitions have been rejected. In one of the petitions (High Court of Justice case 914/04), Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levi expressed the dilemma that he finds himself in as a justice and as an Israeli citizen when confronted with the freeing of terrorists, and their reversion to the path of terror.

This is not the very first time that by virtue of agreements it signed, the State of Israel frees terrorists who sowed death and destruction in our midst. After every such prisoner release, the hope reverberated in many hearts that this time a change would ensue and those freed would no longer return to the path of terror and could possibly even serve as ambassadors for disseminating the idea of peaceful coexistence. It would seem that there is no need to elaborate to what extent this hope was in vain, and it might be more fittingly defined as a false illusion. If we needed further proof that those freed were not intent on peace, one can find it in the bloody events that have accompanied us since October 2000. Many of those whom Israel had in the past set free participated in these horrific events. These incidents have taken their toll in human life, sometimes as an everyday occurrence, and altered the lives of the wounded victims’ families from top to bottom. I saw myself forced to concur with the decision of my colleagues, and with trembling hand I added my signature, and with the sole hope that beats inside me, namely that those who adopted the decision and have a complete picture before them and whose shoulders bear the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Israeli citizens were persuaded that the decision that they adopted was the correct one, despite the terrible risk involved for all of us in the freeing of the miscreants.11

Conclusions

Hundreds have been murdered and many more wounded in terrorist attacks perpetrated by terrorists who have been freed from Israeli prisons.

There needs to be a change in the “rules” that have crystallized in recent years where thousands of terrorists are released in return for isolated kidnap victims. This will limit the damage, for fewer freed terrorists will be free to return to the path of terror. One should not pay any price in order to bring about the release of kidnap victims or captives.

Furthermore, the terrorists that Israel frees in return for captives should not be freed into the West Bank, but abroad, as was done in certain cases in the past. This will make it harder for them to injure residents of the State of Israel.


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Notes

1. From a discussion with a military source.

2. From a discussion with a military source.

3. According to a senior figure in Central Command.

4. Confirmed by Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi to the writer.

5. For further details, see the full investigation on the Almagor Terror Victims Association website www.al-magor.com/39719/

6. The security report, the reports of the Almagor organization, and the verdict and sentence handed down against Barghouti.

7. The Jibril deal involved an exchange of captives that took place on May 21, 1985, between the Government of Israel headed by Shimon Peres and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, a terrorist organization headed by Ahmed Jibril. In the framework of the exchange, 1,150 prisoners and security detainees who were imprisoned in Israel were freed in exchange for the return of three Israeli captives: Hezi Shai, Yosef Grof and Nissim Salem, who had been taken captive by Jibril’s organization at the time of the First Lebanon War. The deal was supported by all the ministers in the Israeli government, both from the Labor Party and the Likud, with the sole exception of Yizhak Navon. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were freed in the territories and most of them, as almost all the security bodies concur today, constituted the backbone of the leadership for the first intifada that erupted three years later.

8. From newspaper reports and a security report summing up the incident.

9. From the sentence of the military court in Beit El, file 3478/02: “The crimes for which the accused is paying the penalty today, demonstrate that the gesture extended to them was not justified and that it led to the killing of additional innocent citizens. The danger posed by the accused was clear after he had already been convicted of murder in the past. The need to keep them at a distance from human civilization forever was also self-evident. After his release, the accused demonstrated that the gesture was unjustified and the steep price for this was paid by many Israeli families.”

10. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report on the terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya from March 2004, as well as a report by the Almagor organization.

11. High Court of Justice 914/04, Victims of Arab Terror International against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 2004 (1) pp. 781-783.

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Nadav Shragai is the author of At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995); and ” Jerusalem is Not the Problem, It is the Solution,” in Mister Prime Minister: Jerusalem, ed. Moshe Amirav (Carmel and the Florsheimer Institute, 2005). He has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz since 1983. His previous studies for the Jerusalem Center include “The Latest Damage to Antiquities on the Temple Mount” (February 2008); “The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel’s Tomb as a Test Case” (December 2007), and “Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price” (August 2008).

About Nadav Shragai

Nadav Shragai is the author of Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008); and At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005). He was a reporter for Ha'aretz between 1983-2010 and currently writes for Yisrael Hayom.