Monday, February 04, 2008

4-Feb-08: Relaxed criteria and craziness

In an announcement word-spun in reassuringly soft language, the prime minister's office has declared its explicit readiness "to relax the criteria" governing which Palestinian-Arab prisoners can be included in any potential exchange deals for the release of Israeli hostages, notably Gilad Shalit.

The Jerusalem Post says this intended relaxation comes "despite vociferous objections by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet)".

Relaxation? Olmert has accepted the recommendation of his point man in negotiations over the hostages, Ofer Dekel. Dekel has called for modifying the long-standing criteria for who can be included in an exchange. JPost quotes Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin opposing the changed criteria. Diskin, who is paid to have views on this subject, says releasing hard-core security prisoners will not only increase terrorism but harm Mahmoud Abbas's standing among Palestinians and boost support for Hamas. Olmert - demonstrating a renewed self-confidence in the wake of the Winograd committee report - has rejected that view.

For weeks, there has been media talk of a deal to exchange 450 Palestinian Arab terrorist prisoners for Gilad Shalit and possibly for other hostages. Israel's position for decades has been that it will not release prisoners with "blood on their hands". But it's precisely those hard-core imprisoned terrorists that the Palestinians most want to see released.

In 1985, Israel's then-prime minister Shimon Peres and then-defense minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to swap 1,150 Palestinian Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails for three Israeli POW's held for three years in Lebanon. This was known as the Ahmed Jibril deal after the name of the jihadist whose terrorists were holding the Israeli prisoners. That Peres-Rabin deal included the Hamas founder, Ahmed Yassin. 800 of the 1,150 returned to the West Bank and Gaza and of course resumed their terrorist activities against Israel.

Several prisoner exchanges have followed with predictably tragic outcomes.

JPost quotes last week's Winograd Committee report on the Second Lebanon War strongly urging that Israel not do "crazy deals" (the judicial panel's actual expression) to secure the release of captured soldiers since this plainly boosts the motivation of the terrorist thugs to capture more.

Ah, but that was last week.

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