The latest terror attack struck as I pondered my daughter’s birthday. It falls on on November 27. For the past 13 years, marking that day has been a real challenge for me. The grief it arouses is overshadowed only by that of August 9, the day Malki died in the Sbarro massacre of 2001. Her murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, a Hamas operative who primed, escorted, instructed and armed her accomplice, a young man called Al-Masri, with ten kilo of explosives, has been free since 2011. Prime Minister Netanyahu released her in the Shalit Deal of 2011.
As in the past, a few reminders about the workings of terrorism, painfully familiar to me, will be my commemoration of Malki’s birthday.
Much has been written about the new religious character that Palestinian terror has supposedly acquired. In an article about the Har Nof synagogue attack, Isabel Kirschner and Jodi Rudoren of the NYTimes wrote:
“Others around the world condemned the attack and the rising religious dimension of the spate of violence, which has been attributed mainly to a struggle over the very site the victims were praying toward.”
The truth is that religious Jews have always been our enemies’ prime targets. Malki’s murderer told journalists that when she met her accomplice, the human bomb, in advance of their joint mission, he told her that he yearned to murder religious Jews. Tamimi said she assured Al-Masri that the target she had selected would satisfy his wishes. For, as she later recounted, she had scouted the city thoroughly and found an eatery frequented almost exclusively by religious Jerusalemites: fourteen of the fifteen men, women and children slaughtered in the Sbarro restaurant that day were religious.
There is another facet to the current spate of violence that has been overlooked or ignored: Mr. Netanyahu’s contribution to it.
Naturally, he has spoken forcefully about the need for global denunciation of recent terror attacks. He has pointed an accusatory finger at those he believes guilty of incitement. He ordered the demolition of the homes of the latest perpetrators – the Har Nof killers.
According to his office, he also “directed that enforcement against those who incite toward terrorist attacks be significantly increased.”
That statement referred to “the series of additional decisions that have been made to strengthen security throughout the country,” whatever they may be. [Boston Globe/New York Times, November 18, 2014]
But all this is too little, too vague and too late. Mr. Netanyahu has already done irreparable damage during his tenure. His band-aid treatments are futile because terrorism has been on the rise ever since he freed hundreds of murderers in the Shalit Deal. [“Israel and Hamas Agree to Swap Prisoners for Soldier”, NY Times, October 11, 2011]
Until recently most of their attempts at fresh acts of terror were foiled. But we have been descending headlong toward our current predicament ever since the busloads of waving murderers left the prison grounds in October 2011 [photo].
The Shalit Deal and Netanyahu’s subsequent releases last year to “jump-start” talks with Mahmoud Abbas destroyed the most effective deterrent we had. There is no more powerful impetus to terrorism than the assurance that they will not be punished.
The newly enacted law [here] purporting to prevent future releases of terrorist murderers is riddled with loopholes.
First, it is not retroactive. If Netanyahu wishes, currently imprisoned murderers could well be freed.
Second, it relates only to “murder under extraordinarily severe circumstances” when the convicting judge categorizes it as such.
And third, it can be entirely by-passed via a Presidential pardon. (Another law introduced just months ago would strip the president of this power with regard to political deals but has not been enacted.),
Finally, even these most “extraordinarily severe circumstance” murderers – whoever these may be – will be eligible to appear before the release committee after only 15 years’ imprisonment. That committee can choose to reduce their sentence to 40 years. So a future mass-murdering terrorist, akin to my Malki’s murderer, could conceivably be free, without any swaps or deals, after 40 years!
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was far from accurate when he boasted of this new law: “Terrorists should die in prison, and now that will be the case.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s serial releases have also sent a resounding message to the world: In Israel, terrorists with blood on their hands are not “real” murderers. Here, their sentences are not binding like those of “real” murderers. Here they are not punished as severely as “real” murderers are.
That message, conveyed by Netanyhau’s actions, rings truer and louder than any of his pronouncements in the wake of the latest terror attacks.
No matter how tough and stricken Netanyahu sounds and appears now, these emotions wane fast for him. Soon, no doubt, any accomplices that may be arrested and convicted of involvement in recent terror attacks will become political currency for him. Or they may be traded along with hundreds of others for the release of one Israeli – thanks to those generous loopholes in the new law.
Mr. Netanyahu is confident we have forgotten his misdeeds and their effects. We need to prove him wrong.