Well, I've said it before when this issue was raised and say it here now: He may pretend he is not acceding to a pre-condition because he will not release the prisoners before negotiations start. But that is game-playing because he AGREED to the release before the negotiations start. Abbas, who is talking now about "joyful news" he expects tomorrow, is already gloating about a "victory." Many times I've read that the PA leaders place the most importance on this issue -- and Netanyahu has given it to them!!
It rather makes me sick to my stomach.
What makes it worse is that he lists reasons why the prisoners should not be released:
" It hurts the bereaved families, it hurts the entire nation of Israel...
"It collides with an exceedingly important value – the value of justice.
"It is a clear injustice when evil people are released before the end of their sentences, even if an absolute majority among them have served over 20 years in jail."
See the whole letter:
He doesn't explicitly mention the fact that terrorists with blood on their hands may participate in the shedding of additional Jewish blood.
But even with the reasons he does list, he admits to overriding their importance in making this decision. Why? Because he says the "peace process" is more important. And, unspoken but obviously implicit -- that there would be no negotiations without this concession.
This is our prime minister NOT standing strong.
And this letter that appeals to the electorate was written precisely because he knows most Israelis are against such a prisoner release. According to a poll by New Wave Research conducted last Wednesday, 85% of Israelis are opposed to release of prisoners who have committed deadly acts in order to facilitate peace negotiations.
I would say that, if he has taken this public stand, he expects to win the Cabinet approval tomorrow. We will see. Many are opposed to this.
It disturbs me more than a little that this same letter speaks about nine months of negotiations, during which time, "we will examine if the Palestinian element that faces us wants to truly end the conflict between us,"
At least two issues hit me in the face here:
Last we heard, it wasn't certain that the PA was going to show up in Washington. And that if they did, in Washington there would be talk about the talks, with the PA warning that they would not proceed unless their demands were met.
So how is it that before the PA comes to Washington, and before they're agreed on all terms so that substantive peace negotiations begin, he is talking about nine months? What does he know that we don't? And what else has he agreed to?
He doesn't say, "if matters can be arranged, and if negotiations begin, I believe they must last for at least nine months." He writes, "In the next nine months..."
Then, he is phony on the face of it when he speaks about examining whether the PA truly wants to end the conflict. He knows as well as anyone that they do not.
Is this an exceedingly dangerous and stupid game meant to appease Kerry and expose the PA at the end of the day??? There is indication that Kerry may have promised the PA that the prisoners would be released. (I will have more on this.)
Or is he on board for signing on to something? That he can even pose the question of whether they are serious with a straight face, figuratively speaking, puts the veracity of everything he brings forth in doubt.
He promises that he will only reach an agreement if Israeli security and vital interests are protected. But how do we rely on that guarantee, or even know how he would define those vital interests?
If he can say releasing prisoners is the right thing to do in spite of the fact that it's an injustice and hurts the entire nation, what vital interests might he pass over because reaching the end of negotiations is, for him now, "the right thing to do"?
I still do not believe that there will be an "end" to negotiations that brings resolution. Because Abbas is NOT sincere and will not sign on to anything that entails compromise.
But we cannot and should not simply count on this. Every step that Netanyahu takes now must and should be watched carefully. It may be time, soon, for massive political activism.
The irony here is that I've been encouraged by a number of ways in which I'm seeing increased nationalist strength in the country. And so I don't see us as defeated. But I do see the need for vigilance and determination at all levels.