The decision to release 104 Palestinian terrorists has been characterized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's confidantes as a "diplomatic necessity." This painful step led to the renewal of serious peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, without having to freeze settlement construction or commit to the 1967 borders. This was a smart move, yet a majority of the Israeli public views the decision to release terrorists with blood on their hands as a mistake that carries too high a price.
It was futile to try to make the release more palatable by dividing it into four stages. Any student of history, like the prime minister is, should remember the dynamic of the Oslo Accords. Gaza and Jericho first? Those were merely words. Once the "process" gets going, no one is capable of taking responsibility for halting it.
Netanyahu is now paying a price for the public's lack of confidence in disproportionate gestures made toward the Palestinians. The public wants to know what Israel is getting in return. Are the Palestinians finally willing to accept Netanyahu's list of conditions and sign a permanent peace deal? Will they recognize Israel as a Jewish state? Will they agree to Israel having defensible borders? Will they give up on Jerusalem and the right of return?
Netanyahu deserves credit for his effort to reach a peace agreement, even if few believe that it can happen.
Meanwhile, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett is trying to have it all. Bennett is not able to take responsibility for decisions he makes. "I and my party's ministers voted no," Bennett wrote on his Facebook page about the decision to release Palestinian terrorists, hoping that the public would click "Like" and forget about his overall responsibility as a minister in the government. Also, Bennett's attempt to blame Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni for the prisoner release looked like an evasion.
This week, we learned that Bennett has yet to internalize that "taking responsibility" is not just an electoral catchphrase.