The problem is not that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners, but how few it releases.
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth gives its readers a daily question, argued by two competing op-eds. On Monday, the question had to do with the coming release of Palestinian prisoners as part of the government’s commitment to Secretary of State John Kerry. Journalist Merav Batito wrote in favor, while Hagai Segal was against freeing terrorists; readers were asked to vote on Facebook.
Segal knows a thing or two about the issue – he is, after all, a released terrorist. In the eighties, Segal was part of what was later called “The Jewish Underground.” He himself took part in an attempts to assassinate Palestinian mayors with bombs. Anther cell murdered three students in Hebron and injured dozens in an attack on an Islamic college, while others planned to bomb the mosques on Temple Mount. The public learned of the Jewish Underground when the Shin bet caught some of its members placing bombs under Palestinian buses in an attempt to conduct a mega-attack that would have killed dozens of civilians.
Most of the underground’s members received light punishments or were later pardoned — even the convicted killers among them spent less than seven years in prison — and one of the them later became the head of the Yesha Council, the main settler political organization. As the cliché goes, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.
So cries of protest against the decision to release 26 prisoners who spent more than 20 years behind bars – the common punishment for murder in Israel – are not a matter of principle but of politics: the Right has no problem releasing murderers, only releasing Palestinians.
And that’s the heart of the matter: at any given moment, Israel holds thousands of Palestinians in its prisons, many of them serving long sentences for light offenses like throwing stones or political activities against the occupation. Dozens to hundreds (and occasionally, thousands) are held in administrative detention for months and years, Read More