In spite of Israel’s insistence that she would not agree to any pre-conditions for a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, the government voted today in favour of releasing 104 security prisoners, and that prior to the first meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
The decision was a painful one, because the list of those to be freed includes many who were given multiple life sentences following being found guilty of the murder of innocent men, women and children.
According to news reports, those to be released will include the murderer of Rachel Weiss, who was burned to death with her three small children when the bus in which they were travelling from Tiberius to Jerusalem was ambushed. She died trying to save her children from the flames.
Also to be released is the murderer of Ofra and Tal Moses. A Molotov cocktail was hurled at their car. Ofra Moses, who was pregnant at the time, died in the burning car while her son, Tal, who was fatally injured, died in hospital several months later.
Were the release of these terrorists to be the first stage in a process that would lead to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, the price would be worth paying. However, the indications are that the thinking behind Israel’s decision to release these prisoners was totally different.
There is growing concern about Israel’s deteriorating position on the international political stage. Anxiety has also been expressed that an increasing number of security incidents over the past months could lead to a third Intifada. The time is also fast approaching when a decision will have to be made as to what action should be taken as Iran moves ever closer to becoming a nuclear power.
Israel cannot afford to be at odds with the United States at such a critical time and, therefore, had no alternative but to agree to the framework negotiated by US Secretary of State Kerry.
It isn’t easy to release prisoners with blood on their hands, but given the overall situation, there was no other option.