Releasing Terrorists: Water or Fuel to the Fire of Terrorism?

by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
“Israel Hayom”, August 2, 2013,

The Head of Israel’s Security Services, Yoram Cohen, stated that 60% of released Palestinian terrorists revert to operational terrorism. Most of the 1,150 terrorists, released via the May 21, 1985 “Jibril Exchange” played a key role during the First Intifada (wave of terrorism). Over 50% of the Palestinian terrorists, who were released between the 1993 Oslo Accord and the eruption of the Second Intifada, participated in that wave of Palestinian terrorism.

Mahmoud Abbas’ commitment to embrace – and not to condemn – terrorists shed light on his prime values, which are consistent with his track record: A Holocaust denial PhD from Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University; enrollment in KGB courses; the coordination of PLO ties with ruthless Communist regimes in East Europe; the logistical coordination of the Olympic Games’ “Munich Massacre:” collaboration with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait; subversive and terrorist activities which led to his expulsion from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Mahmoud Abbas commemorates Palestinian terrorists – who unlike freedom fighters systematically and deliberately assault civilians – by naming kindergartens, schools, summer camps, streets, squares, community centers and sport events for them.

Releasing Palestinian terrorists upgrades their social status in a society which has been subjected, since 1994, to hate-education and incitement, in Abbas-controlled schools, mosques and the media. The Palestinian (hate) education system – and not the Palestinian dialogue with Western policy makers and public opinion molders – has been the most authentic reflection of Abbas’ worldview. It constitutes the production-line of terrorists and suicide-bombers.

The prime goal of Palestinian terrorism is not the murder of Israeli civilians, but the erosion of their confidence in the capability of their government to avert lethal threats. Palestinian terrorism aims at humiliating Israel, undermining Israelis’ trust in Israel’s justice system, injuring Israel’s posture of deterrence, wrecking Israel’s image as a strategic asset and role-model of counter-terrorism and entrenching a national sense of weariness, leading to sweeping Israeli concessions.

Submission to pressure, and releasing terrorists, trigger a tailwind to the terrorism and a headwind to Israel’s morale and national security. Releasing terrorists transforms them into terror-multipliers, a role model for young Palestinians. Most released terrorists partake in the upgrading of terror infrastructures: enlistment of new terrorists, fund raising, enhancement of motivation, planning terrorist acts, etc.

According to Prime Minister Netanyahu, “If the government succumbs [and releases terrorists], the terrorist scores an obvious victory…. Once the line of concessions is crossed, more atrocities and more demands are sure to follow, with the inexorable logic of blackmail in the face of weakness…. The terrorist objective is not negotiation but capitulation…. Government must be made to understand that if they acquiesce in terrorism, they are in practice supporting it…. [It] should be considered an act of collusion…. [Citizens] must not pressure their government to capitulate or to surrender to terrorism…. Such pressure can only be called a dereliction of civic duty…. Terrorism tries to evoke one feeling: fear. It is understandable that the one virtue most necessary to defeat terrorism is, therefore, the antithesis of fear: courage…. Confusion and vacillation facilitated the rise of terrorism. Clarity and courage will ensure its defeat (Terrorism: How the West Can Win, edited by Benjamin Netanyahu, 1986, pp. 201, 219, 226).”

Netanyahu added, in his 1995 Hebrew edition of A Place under the Sun, that “the release of terrorists is a mistake the Israeli government repeats time and time again…. From the beginning, I saw the Jibril Exchange a fatal blow to Israel’s efforts to form an international front against terrorism. How can Israel preach to the US and the West…when Israel surrendered herself so shamefully? I was convinced that the release of a thousand terrorists would necessarily lead to a terrible escalation of violence, because these terrorists will be accepted as heroes, as an example to be imitated by young Palestinians…. It is clear now that the release of a thousand terrorists was one of the factors that provided a pool of fermenting violence and its leaders ignited the fire of the Intifada.”

In 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu defies his own books, speeches, political platforms and the legacy of the “Jonathan (Entebbe) Operation.”

Israel’s release of Palestinian terrorists and Abbas’ embrace of these terrorists on one hand, and the war on terrorism and the pursuit of peace on the other hand, constitute an oxymoron. The US pressure on Israel to release terrorists – while the US, rightly, opposes the release of terrorists (e.g. the 9/11 perpetrators and Major Nidal Hassan who murdered 13 US soldiers at Ft. Hood) – constitutes moral hypocrisy which adds fuel to the fire of terrorism.

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