A Return Letter to Bibi

Binjamin Netanyahu has written to the people of Israel to explain what many of us consider unexplainable. He is about to release murderers – of men, women, children, grandfathers. Old, young, innocent…no, not the murderers, the victims. In cold blood they took lives and now they are to be rewarded – yes, rewarded.

Worse, Bibi is making a mockery of our justice system. Life in jail means … should mean, you have done a crime so reprehensible that a trusted judge of the State of Israel has determined you must spend the rest of your miserable life paying for it. Bibi seems to think these murderers are his political pawns, the pain their release will cause, his right to determine.

Line by line, I read his letter and word by word, my anger grew.

“Prime ministers are occasionally required to make decisions that are contrary to public opinion, when the matter is one of importance to the state,” he wrote to me, to my neighbors and friends and worse, to the parents and children, wives and husbands, he is about to betray.

I agree – and that is indeed why you were elected, I want to tell our Prime Minister. There are difficult decisions that have to be made and we have to trust the Prime Minister and his government to make those decisions in the best interests of the country (not his political standing or his place in history; not because he bowed to the United States and doesn’t want to be seen as intransigent).

“There is no need for prime ministers, in order to make decisions that enjoy the support of public opinion.  At this time, I believe it is very important for the state of Israel to enter a diplomatic process. This is important for fully exhausting the chances for ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and also for solidifying Israel’s status in the complex international reality that surrounds us.”

I agree that it is important for Israel to … wait, did you say ENTER the political process? What have we been doing or trying to do…for the last 65 years? ENTER? No, sorry – we have been fully engaged in attempting to get the Palestinians to ENTER the talks.  If we never got to those talks, it is not because we have not entered. We have been left sitting at that table, looking like fools, time after time after time – almost each time, at the behest of the great American president who thought he could carve his place in history with our blood, our sacrifice.

But the bigger concern here is the last part of your sentence. We are to release murderers and once again endanger our current and future security to solidify “Israel’s status in the complex international reality that surrounds us.” Honestly, do you think this will ever be solidified? Do you really believe they will ever accept us? Come on, be honest – at least with us. Tell the US whatever you want, but if you are writing to us, and not the United States, let’s talk truth. For the last 65 years, the Arabs have denied our right to exist – releasing 104 prisoners just convinces them all the more that we are too stupid and too weak to stick around much longer.

“The huge changes in our region – in Egypt, Syria and Iran – pose new challenges before the state of Israel, but they also present considerable opportunities before us.”

So releasing 104 prisoners, that is where you’re going with this nonsense, right? Releasing 104 Palestinians is going to change the situation in the region, address these new challenges? Have you noticed that the Egyptians, Syrians and Iranians don’t much like the Palestinians either? Guess not…

“For these reasons, I believe that it is important that Israel enter a diplomatic process that will last at least nine months – in order to examine if an agreement can be reached with the Palestinians within that time. But with all the importance that I attach to a diplomatic process, I was not willing to accept the Palestinian demands for retreats and [building] freezes as preconditions for entering into negotiations.”

And why should you have accepted any Palestinian preconditions – wasn’t that the great announcement that you and Kerry made recently – negotiations WITHOUT preconditions? Now you’re citing the ones you would not accept in order to introduce the ones you decided you would accept? What part of NO PRECONDITIONS didn’t make sense to you?

“I was also unwilling to accept their demand to release Palestinian prisoners before the negotiations begin. I did agree to release 104 Palestinians in measured portions after the beginning of the negotiation and in accordance with its progress.

Forgive me for my ignorance, but usually when someone says “without preconditions – it means…WITHOUT preconditions, like none. Like no, we won’t freeze, we won’t agree to new borders, and no, we won’t release killers. We will come, we will talk. We will assume that peace is to the mutual benefit of both sides. We will assume you want peace.

And, we will even assume you want peace almost as much as we do. And we will talk and hopefully agree. And, in THAT agreement, both sides will have to compromise. Maybe it will be land; maybe it will be a building freeze; maybe it will involve releasing prisoners. It will certainly involve mutual recognition.

What it won’t include is more of the same mistakes of the past, where WE froze, and they fired; where WE withdrew and they took up new positions; where WE released, and they planned additional attacks and kidnappings.

“This is a tremendously difficult decision to make. It hurts the bereaved families, it hurts the entire nation of Israel and it hurts me very much.

I’ll have to take your word on how much it hurts you; I have no doubt how much it hurts the families who thought that they had achieved, at the very least, some measure of justice for the tremendous injustice of having their wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers murdered.

I would have thought you understood…but I am not so sure. It’s been 37 years since your brother fell – but he fell in a mission to save others. He wasn’t a victim of terror, Bibi. He was an armed soldier who went to battle. He wasn’t traveling in a car, walking down the street. He knew when he boarded that flight to Entebbe that he was putting his life on the line. It was his choice. He lost his life, but all of Israel recognizes him for the hero he was. In that last battle, he and his forces gave as good as they got, better even, because he died to save hundreds of innocents. He fell in battle for the highest of reasons. No, I don’t think you do understand.

“It collides with an exceedingly important value – the value of justice.

Damn right it does. And if you are going to collide with our values – you should at least do it for something…not some future promise that history has proven never really materializes. You have mocked our justice system, turning it into the revolving door of the Arab “justice system” and caused tremendous pain in the doing. How dare you do this to the victims, to their families, and to our entire system of justice.

“It is a clear injustice when evil people are released before the end of their sentences, even if an absolute majority among them have served over 20 years in jail.

Are you trying to convince yourself of this? Yes, it is a clear injustice. We agree.

“The decision is doubly personally difficult for me, because I and my family know personally the price of bereavement from terror. I know the pain well. I have felt it on a daily basis for the past 37 years.

But again, you don’t know the bereavement of a victim or a victim’s family, do you? You know the bereavement of a soldier’s family. That of a fallen hero. You know that pain – but  you also know his place in history is secure. Streets are named for him, buildings, hundreds of children live with the name Yoni, in memory of your brother – and no one can come and release his murderers, belittle his sacrifice. You know? I’m sorry – but you know nothing of the pain you are causing.

Your brother was chosen and chose to lead a mission of honor that saved hundreds of lives. There is comfort in that. What comfort is there in having your 76-year-old grandfather stabbed to death by the killer your leader wants to release for political motivations? Of having your wife and three children murdered…by another killer that will walk free so that points can be made with Washington and Ramallah? You know the pain of losing a loved one, but not the injustice of having it done in terror and now, the further injustice of having that killer released.

“The fact that Israeli governments that preceded those that I have headed released over 10,000 terrorists, does not make things any easier for me today, and did not make my decision to free Gilad Schalit any easier.

“Bringing Gilad home involved an exceedingly difficult decision for me – the release of terrorists. But I believed that the value of bringing our sons home must supersede that difficulty.

The jury is still out on whether the value of bringing home a beloved son of Israel outweighs the danger of releasing over 1,000 terrorists. Already, Israel has had to recapture several of those terrorists.

“People in positions of leadership must choose between complex options, and sometimes the required decision is particularly difficult when most of the public opposes it.

See, the concept of a democracy is that you implement the dreams and hopes and wishes of the people. In a dictatorship, you can do what YOU want; in a democracy, you are supposed to do what the people want. After 65 years of facing the same enemy, I think we, the people, are also qualified to know that you’re leading us down a dead end…again.

“Thus, I decided to end Operation Pillar of Defense after arch terrorist Ahmed Jaabari was liquidated, and after the harsh blows that Hamas and the terror organizations received at the hands of the IDF. I made the decision to end the operation although most of the public backed continuing it – something that would have required a ground offensive into Gaza. As prime minister I thought that the goal of deterrence had been largely achieved by the determined actions we took.”

As the mother of a soldier called to that almost-battle, I too wondered if you’d made the right decision. But you see, with Operation Pillar of Defense, one could argue that you were privy to information we didn’t have – or at least I hope so.

Yes, it looked like a stupid decision, but we trusted that you made it for the right reasons. For what it is worth, soldiers – like my son…who you called up on a Friday night to join the battle…understood your decision, even if they didn’t agree with it.

They knew, at that point, given what the air force had already accomplished, that it was an issue of weighing what was to come against what was accomplished. That is not the same now. What will be accomplished by releasing 104 killers NOW? Why not begin the negotiation…why not, in fact, end the negotiation and let part of what they demand be these 104. Then, at least, we will get
SOMETHING…ANYTHING…in exchange for this injustice. But we won’t get anything for it – and once again, if we are required to buy their seat at the table with our blood, we are fools – fools lead by a fool.

“Today, about a year after Operation Pillar of Defense, we are witnessing the most quiet situation in the south in over a decade. Of course, this quiet can fall apart at any moment, but my policy is a clear one on all fronts: as far as possible, we prevent threats in advance, and we respond with force to any attempt to hurt our civilians.”

And history has shown us each time the Americans put on the pressure towards peace, things begin to explode here. Each time we push, we are rewarded with more violence. What makes you think this time will be any different when in order to merely get them to the negotiating table, you have to again bribe them with bloodied hands?

“In the next nine months we will examine if the Palestinian element that faces us wants to truly end the conflict between us, as we do.  This end will only be possible if the security of the citizens of Israel is assured, along with our vital national interests.  If we reach a peace arrangement of this nature, I will bring it to a public referendum.

If the Palestinians truly want an end….if the security of Israelis is assured…if we reach a peace agreement…there are a heck of a lot of “ifs” in those statements and before ANY of them come true, you are already agreeing to release over 100 murderers. Why?

“A crucial decision like this must not be made on the cusp of a few votes in the Knesset. Every citizen must be allowed to directly influence our future in such a central question. The best response that we give to those base murderers who wanted to defeat us through terror is that in the course of the dozens of years when they sat in jail, we have built a wonderful country and turned it into one of the world’s most prosperous, advanced and powerful countries.

Actually, the response you are giving those base murderers who want to defeat us through terror is that they are likely to succeed. Sure, they sat in jail a dozen or more years and yeah, we’ve built a wonderful country…but they are being free to attempt – chance two – to defeat us, to maim us, to destroy all we have built for ourselves and our children. What value will what we have built be…if in the building, we allow them to kill our future?

I promise that we will continue to do so.

And, I promise you that what you release today will try in the near future to destroy us…as they have tried for 65 years. I know…sadly…with more pain and despair than you perhaps can imagine…that things will explode in Israel once again, people will die…because of these 104, because once again you are showing weakness. We will pay for the 104 as we are paying and will pay for the 1,026 and the hundreds we released in the past.

There is a part of me that wants to ask why you did not ask the Americans to offer Sirhan Sirhan to the Palestinians. Why are we the only ones to release the murderers of our people? And, if the Americans feel 20+ years is enough time served, why didn’t you demand that they release Jonathan Pollard? Once again, Israel pays – in advance…for nothing but the stupidity of our leadership.

The greatest nation can be defeated by the stupidest of decisions.

What you seem to forget, Bibi – each and every time, is that when the Palestinians want peace, really want peace…we won’t have to buy it and so long as we are willing to pay a price such as this, they will win. The blood on their hands remains. Those that took your brother’s life are laughing because you are giving them another chance to take hostages and somewhere, sometime, another young Yoni will have to fly into danger, to save his people, as your Yoni once did. 

The blood of those victims is on the hands of those you release…the blood of the next victims will be on yours. That is the horrible burden a leader must bear. It is your right to choose this path; and our job to remind you that in weakness and surrender, there is only failure.

Yours, Binyamin Netanyahu.

Yours…an Israeli, a Jew, a wife, a mother…part of a nation saddened, shocked, and angry.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.
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