As the second stage of the Palestinian prisoner release gets underway, there are several lessons to be learned ahead of the next release, which preferably will not take place since it is fundamentally misguided, immoral and inhuman.
Past experience teaches two main lessons regarding the release of terrorists. First, most of them return to their past ways. Every time prisoners are released there is a significant upsurge in terror attacks. Unfortunately, this second phase is certain to contribute to Arab violence.
A second lesson, derived from a soon-to-be-published long-term study, is that every deal to release prisoners or enemy soldiers becomes the starting point for the next release. In the distant past, we received a prisoner or captive in exchange for a terrorist or soldier. For a while now, Israel has progressively sweetened the deal: releasing murderers with blood on their hands, releasing serial murderers and worst of all: paying the price just so that the murderers' dispatchers will agree to sit down and talk with Israel about the future of territories occupied in a defensive war. If the reports are true that in the third phase Israel will also release Israeli Arab prisoners, this will be yet another slide down the diplomatic slippery slope.
Furthermore, the present phased release is a reward to those who violate agreements. The Oslo accords stipulate that the Palestinian Autonomous Territories are forbidden from establishing diplomatic ties. Not only is this clause routinely violated, but one rationale for the release of murderers is to prevent these lawbreakers from approaching the U.N. for the purpose of being recognized as a state.
It must be said loud and clear: Releasing terrorists is a bad idea under any circumstances, so much more so for the purpose of temporarily staying the perpetual violation of agreements. The release in four phases merely bolsters Palestinians' stubbornness, because it is not dependent on any progress in the talks or willingness to compromise on their part.
In their view, Israel will release the prisoners, who will prepare the next wave of murder and terrorism once the talks fail.
The High Court's rejection of the bereaved families' petition without any substantive discussion is a practice best relegated to the past. If the residents of the Palestinian Autonomous Territories can have their voices heard by Israel's judicial authorities, a voice that is political in every sense, it is only right and just that the cry of the bereaved families be heard in the same forums.
Each terrorist should be discussed on an individual basis in order to establish the security, moral, human and image threat he constitutes to Israel and its citizens. We should mention as an aside that a handful of Israeli political leaders have described Naftali Bennett's criticism of the prisoner release -- legitimate in its content if not its timing -- as "incitement," similar to that which preceded violent events in Israeli society.
Even though I reject the idea of prisoner release outright, there is a limit to the circumstances under which an Israeli minister can express criticism of the deal. Bennett's words were not incitement, but a legitimate opinion voiced at the wrong time. It is not acceptable for a government minister, who has collective responsibility, to level criticism outside the government after a decision was made.
We private citizens are entitled to protest and to express our opinions any time we feel that our government is in the wrong. A minister, on the other hand, must hold his tongue after the decision has been made because, in essence he is criticizing himself.
The writer is director of the Middle East Research Center at Ariel University in Samaria.