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We should have chosen ‘settlement freeze’

Right-wing voters had a hand in the absurd decision to release convicted terrorist-murderers

Tonight, the third batch of Palestinian murderers will be released from prison, whisked off to an Abu-Mazen-Extravaganza where they will be honored and praised for their courageous acts against the evil Zionists. If their ceremony in any way follows the two preceding it, the murderers will likely receive bundles of cash and an offer to assume any number of ministerial offices in the Palestinian Authority.

While the first two releases have been carried out exactly according to plan, as tonight’s likely will, neither has managed to escape public protest.

But if you take a look at the host of images accompanying any news article or television program covering this issue, it seems as though these protests attract only two groups of people: 1. the families of victims of the soon-to-be-released murderers and 2. dati-leumi, religious types.

And the question that I have repeatedly asked myself is: Why? Why has this become a religious issue, an extremist issue, a “right-wing” issue? After all, these murderers didn’t discriminate between Right and Left when they set out to blow themselves up, so why should we?

The truth is that I can probably provide the answer to my own question. However, in order to understand the basis of my answer, we have to go back to the beginning.

Our story begins on July 19th of this year, 2013, moments before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinians would reenter into a nine-month negotiation period. Unbeknownst to the public at the time, PM Netanyahu was in a closed-door meeting with Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Netanyahu stressed to Bennett that in an effort to accommodate Bennett’s national-religious party, HaBayit HaYehudi, Israel would not agree to preconditions like a settlement freeze or the recognition of the 1967 borderlines, it would however agree to release Palestinian prisoners. At the time, Bennett agreed to this, stipulating however that every prisoner release would have to be tied to building, making it “easier to swallow”.

Later, when it came time to actually release the first batch of prisoners, Bennett tried to revoke his support for the deal, but Netanyahu held him to it. Realizing he was in a bind, HaBayit HaYehudi released a statement denying the deal ever took place, however following an exposé by Channel 2 on October 30th attesting to the deal, Bennett only came out looking like a hypocrite and a fool.

And that’s where we are today. We [the national-religious] have got ourselves into a bind. The ten-month settlement freeze we endured during Netanyahu’s first term, was so painful, we made it clear to our elected representatives that we would not tolerate another one – WE made building a priority, WE tied Bennett’s hands, and forced him to think that building homes was more important, or rather less painful, than watching those who murdered our loved ones in cold blood walk freely through the streets of Jerusalem. And now we are trying to make up for it.

Not only did we make a mistake, we lost a battle on two, or even three fronts: in the way we are viewed by the left, in the way we are viewed by the world, and worst, in the way we view ourselves. By prioritizing settlement-building, we achieved nothing. On the contrary, we all come out looking like fools, every single one of us, from the extreme-right to the liberal-left.

Everyone agrees as to the absurdity of releasing convicted terrorist-murderers as a show of good-faith in peace negotiations. It’s illogical to even have those six words in the same sentence – convicted-terrorist-murderers-good-faith-peace.

Those protesting the murderers’ release make a point of stressing that absurdity, however, as soon as it is made clear that a settlement-freeze was on the table as a viable option INSTEAD of releasing terrorists, you can no longer make that point, you just look like a fool.

Second of all, the notion of building new homes in areas where, should the “peace talks” succeed, you are presumably going to evacuate, is so incongruous with your goal, that it does nothing but to undermine your own credibility as a viable partner for peace.

Let us imagine for a second the other scenario, that which we feared so much, the settlement freeze. Nine months of no building. The likelihood would have been that the Palestinians would have found their own way for the talks to fail, and at the end of the nine months we would have kept on building. The one thing that the Palestinians fear most is coming to an agreement with Israel. A reality where Palestinian leaders (sorry for the oxymoron) would have to actually “lead”, instead of making a career out of demonizing Israel, would be a terrifying one. A reality where Palestinians could no longer lay claims to Israel, where they would actually have to make use of the billions of dollars in aid they receive from numerous world-sources monthly to focus on building infrastructure and places of education, would be a terrifying one.

But the Palestinians didn’t need to find a way for the talks to fail. We did that for them. In fact, under the current conditions, it seems they were made to fail from the start. And the only one who gains from this is the Palestinians. After all, at the end of the nine-month negotiation process, Israel will seem undedicated to the cause, having continuously built in the areas which were supposed to be evacuated, and the Palestinians will have gained a few hundred freed murderers, undoubtedly destined to be prize lecturers in their universities and elementary schools, and supreme role-models for their kids.

So all we have left now is to protest. The central-left and the non-religious realize this as what it is – our screw-up. We too realize this and so we try to make up for our mis-prioritization by taking to the streets, by protesting against the release of 104 cold-blooded murderers. Now I challenge you: find me the person. Find me one person whose heart is warmed by the fact that a few hundred homes are being built in Har-Choma to compensate for the release of convicted murderers. What is the correlation between the two?

About the Author
Yitz Hammer lives with his wife and two children in Netanya; He made aliyah from the U.S. in 2000, studied in Otniel Hesder Yeshiva and served in the Combat Engineering Corps; Yitzy is currently studying towards an LL.B. in Law and a B.A. in Government at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliah, where he works as a research assistant in the subject of Jewish Law; Yitz's interests include photography, history, international law, music and writing. Most recently, Yitzy has joined the ranks of StandWithUs, the pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, as a participant in their Israel Fellowship.
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