Monday, April 02, 2012

2-Apr-12: An open letter to the prime minister: Are you the kind of leader we need now?

A version of the article below was published yesterday in the Ops & Blogs section of the Times of Israel under the title "From terrorist to talk-show host: a letter to Netanyahu"

PM Binyamin Netanyahu:  "In a live address 
to the country [on July 1, 2010], Netanyahu said all Israelis
wanted Shalit back safely but past experience showed
that many Palestinians released had returned
to carry out attacks on Israelis". Source: Haaretz newspaper
under the headline "Israel willing to pay heavy price to free 

Gilad Shalit - but not any price" 

Are you the kind of leader we need now?                     

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We could say "I told you so". But we will pass; the words offer no comfort. One of the terrorists you freed last October in the Shalit deal, our daughter’s murderer,Ahlam Tamimi, has resumed her terrorist activities. And she is flaunting them before the world.

She is not alone. Earlier this month, Haaretz learned from the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. AviMizrahi, that prisoners freed in exchange for Shalit are plotting to abduct Israeli civilians or soldiers and hold them hostage outside the West Bank.

But those freed prisoners are obviously on the IDF’s radar screen. Israel has arrested and re-imprisoned some for terrorist activities. Tamimi, on the other hand, was repatriated at your command to her home in Jordan where she is beyond Israel’s reach. “Exile” is what you called this arrangement, Mr. Netanyahu.

Last month, Tamimi began hosting a weekly show on the Hamas satellite TV station Al Quds which is beamed to every Arabic speaking country. She says the program, Nasim al-Ahrar [Breeze of the Free] will champion the cause of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Airing on Friday nights, it enables Tamimi to incite others to attacks similar to the one she perpetrated – the massacre of fifteen men, women andchildren at Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant.

Upon learning, while imprisoned, that her efforts as strategist, scout, bomb transporter and escort had killed eight children, Tamimi said she had presumed there were three. “Eight?” she asked, smiling broadly, when she heard. “Eight then,” she repeated.

This child-killer’s hour-long TV shows are posted on You Tube. Seated in the Al Quds studio, composed and measured, Tamimi fields phone calls from prisoners’ families throughout the Arab world and hosts studio guests. She revels in her newfound celebrity.

On her first segment, Tamimi welcomed Saleh Arouri, director of the Hamas prisoners’ portfolio, who told viewers that the way to secure the release of more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails is by continued "resistance" and kidnappings of more IDF soldiers.

Tamimi, who ought to know, says her program is broadcast to Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Horrified by this news, we contacted the spokesperson’s office at the Israel Person Service. They responded that all Palestinian prisoners, presumably including mass murderers, are given access to ten channels of which four are Arabic. Cancelling this long-standing privilege, we were told, is regarded by prison authorities as impossible because, in their words, “it would not stand up in court”.

They assured us the prisoners have no access to Al Quds, and that the IPS has not detected broadcasts of Tamimi’s program on any of the permitted channels. They did concede that while future broadcasts of her program are entirely possible, all the IPS would do was carry out routine spot checks of program content.

This is disturbing for anybody concerned about incitement to terror by a mass murderer who was sentenced to 16 life sentences.

Such mollycoddling of terrorists is a precedent that you, Mr. Netanyahu, have set, even while you continue the pretense of being tough on terrorists.

For instance, two weeks ago, in the context of the Iranian nuclear threat, you vowed to AIPAC never to gamble with [Israel’s] security. "I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation", you declared.

And last week, reacting to the Toulouse shootings which you proclaimed were a “despicable murder”, you told the French government: “I promise that Israel will help France in the task of apprehending the murderer.”

Do you honestly consider yourself a bulwark against terrorists? You, who discounted the statistics about recidivism among past released terrorists. You, who paid no heed to the fact that some 30 terrorist attacks, in which 177 Israelis perished, committed since the year 2000, were carried out by Palestinians freed in previous deals or as goodwill gestures.

Netanyahu doctrine, mid-nineties edition
You even dismissed the principles promulgated by your own book. In Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists" (1995) you wrote:
“Prisoner releases only embolden terrorists by giving them the feeling that… their punishment will be brief. Worse, by leading terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse.”

You forgot your vow in 1998 to your Likud colleagues, at the time of the Wye Plantation agreement: “We will never release convicted terrorist murderers”.

You ditched your pronouncement of July 2010 that “arch-terrorists” would not be part of any deal to rescue Gilad Shalit.

Finally, you ignored the letter my husband and I wrote and had hand delivered to you six months before you signed the Shalit deal. In it, we begged you to exclude from the swap one uniquely demonic terrorist: Ahlam Tamimi.

Mr. Netanyahu, to this day you have not responded to our plea. In fact, you have never written to us about the travesty of justice committed by our government. In October 2011, after the first tranche of the Shalit release, you assured the public that you had sent a letter to every victim affected by the Shalit deal. We checked, and it appears not one of us received such a letter. When we inquired at the Prime Minister’s Office, your staff insisted that “many” such letters had been mailed at the post office. The letters’ tracks, they said, had then been lost. One of your spokesmen prepared to quote me a precise number of letters sent, but we heard somebody in the background call out to him “Don’t give a number!”

At this foreboding juncture in our history, the Jewish people need a leader for whom their safety and welfare are top priority. A principled, honest, steadfast leader who, like US president Teddy Roosevelt, speaks softly and carries a big stick.

You, Mr. Netanyahu, do not fit the bill.

Frimet Roth is a freelance writer in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro restaurant bombing (2001). She and her husband founded the Malki Foundation in her memory. It provides concrete support for Israeli families, irrespective of their religious or national affiliation, who choose to care for their special-needs child at home.

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