Today, 28th of July 2013, 21st Av, is a sad day for all Israelis. The government we elected has decided that 104 terrorists who murdered Jews simply for their religion and nationality will go free. Not because they served their time, not because they reformed, but for strategic goals. Because, they say, sometimes in the interests of peace terrible decisions must be made. That the interests of the State mean that those who fire-bombed buses, who murdered soldiers and taxi drivers can be released back to their homes.
All of us must feel the pain of those families who lost loved ones at the hands of these butchers. Many of us feel shocked, betrayed, a visceral anger at the sheer injustice, the immorality of this move. How can it be that perpetrators of such heinous brutality be released before their time is served? They were convicted in a court, surely they must serve their sentence? How can we be sure they won’t just go back to terror? Doesn’t this just show our enemies that they need not fear justice?
On a more strategic level, we still don’t understand. Surely the ministers all see that this is counter-productive, rewarding the other side for nothing, not even starting negotiations. We know that anyway the negotiations won’t lead anywhere, so why are we so desperate for them to start? Surely they must realise that however the talks break down, Israel will anyway be blamed.
Yet we know them, these ministers who voted for this decision, and we know their motivations. We know that they do understand the issues, and we know that they are convinced that this must be in the best interests of the State of Israel. People like Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of Defense, former head of the army during the Second Intifada. Like Yitzchak Aharonovitch, the Minister of Internal Security, or like Yaakov Peri, former head of the Shin Bet.
We hear the pain in Gidon Sa’ar’s voice as he explained why he was voting for the deal. He said that a vote against the deal would end any chance for the renewal of negotiations, and would lead to a crisis in relations with the United States. Yuval Steinitz echoed him in saying that Israel cannot be seen to be behind the collapse of the talks.
What do they know that we don’t? Can we trust that the former heads of the army and Shin Bet when they judge the risk from these freed terrorists to be less that that of a crisis with our few remaining allies? Are there issues developing behind the scenes regarding Iran that would be endangered we were to lose US support?
I know that I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I feel the families’ pain. I feel, along with all Israelis, the lack of justice. Personally I feel that if we have got to the stage that relations with the US hinge on our freeing evil from our prisons, then something must have gone seriously wrong. I know that I would not have been able to bring myself to vote for this, under almost any circumstances. Yet I also trust some of those who did vote for it. In the end, the only thing I am sure of is that it is never just black and white.