Reports have been circulating that next week the Israeli government will release the second round of Palestinian prisoners; a precondition attached to the renewal of peace talks. The Prime Minister’s office has declined to confirm the exact date.
The release of the first twenty-six pre-Oslo prisoners on August 13 polarized Israeli society. You can read my summation of this juncture here.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, negotiated that in total 104 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners were to be released by Israel as a ‘good will gesture’ to kick off negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Now as the Israeli leadership prepares for the next round of releases it seems apt to reflect on the current political landscape, and what progress, if any, has been made.
The recent surge of Palestinian terror attacks has evoked much skepticism and concern. In the last month alone terrorist attacks have targeted both Israeli soldiers in the line of duty as well as lay citizens. The kidnapping and murder of off duty IDF soldier, Tomer Hazan by a Palestinian co-worker sent shock waves throughout the country and was followed by the killing of Sgt.Gal Gabriel Kobi, 20, by a sniper while he was on duty in Hebron.
Only a few weeks ago nine-year old Noam Glick was shot by masked Palestinian men invading her home in Psagot. Additionally, former IDF Colonel Seraiah Ofer was bludgeoned to death and his wife was attacked outside their home in the West Bank. This week a Palestinian man was shot dead while trying to ram a tractor into the Rama army base north of Jerusalem.
Despite acknowledging “the wave of terror in the West Bank” Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon said in an interview with Y-net that these violent episodes were unlikely to delay or cancel the successive release of Palestinian prisoners.
Ya’alon went further to say that some of these recent attacks against Israelis may have been criminal in nature.
“We treat these events as a wave because it is a statistical anomaly. When we analyse each event on its own facts, somebody committed it for one reason or another, often for a nationalist or criminal reason…but there is no organization behind it, not Fatah, not Hamas or any other organization,”
However, a speech delivered by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh marking the second anniversary of the Gilad Shalit ‘deal’ suggests that a much more organized resurgence of Palestinian terror may be in place.
On this ‘occasion’ Haniyeh called for a renewal of the Intifada in the West Bank, praising the Shalit event as a “victory” and boasting the heavy price Israel had to pay of releasing 1000 Palestinian terrorists.
“We call for the renewal of the popular intifada in the West Bank, to restart resistance within it.”
“We send blessings to the heroes who undertook the recent attacks in the West Bank, and call on (Palestinians involved in the) resistance to stand up and take action at every possible moment to stop the threat facing the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem,” he said.
In assessing this string of events many have speculated that peace talks have reached an impasse. Members of both the Israeli and Palestinian camps have publically branded the talks fruitless.
At the funeral of Sgt. Kobi, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett advocated against the continued release of Palestinian prisoners.
“Israel must stop giving the enemy the impression that Jewish blood is the cheapest commodity in the Middle East,” he said.
One of the most contentious claims recently has come from former head of the Shin Bet, and one of the Gatekeepersfeatured in Dror Moreh’s documentary, Yuval Diskin, who warned of an impending ‘Palestinian spring.’
According to the Times of Israel, at a conference for the Finance Ministry’s Budget Division Diskin said “all of the conditions exist in our situation for the Palestinian masses to rise up.”
“In the West Bank, the intense tension and frustration is worsening among the Palestinians, who feel that their land is being stolen from them, that the state they strive for is getting further away, and the economy is no longer something that they can take comfort in.”
However, appeals to the dire Palestinian economy fail to hold the traction they once did after it was revealed last week that over $3.1 million in international aid was misspent or squandered by the Palestinian Authority.
We all like to believe that the current negotiations will yield results, even if achieved through baby steps. I have advocated previously that it is our role as Jews and Zionists to support the Israeli leadership as they make difficult decisions in the pursuit of lasting peace and security for the people of Israel.
Nonetheless we are only human, and in the current climate of violence, where it seems that disdain for Israeli life is more palpable than ever, it is hard to retain optimism. This feeling will only be exacerbated when more Palestinian prisoners, many of whom have been directly involved in the murder of Israelis, are released in the coming weeks.
As in previous times, internal opposition will be fierce, but we abroad must reserve judgment and offer our support to the Israeli leadership.
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia