“In Future The Strategic Considerations Behind The Decision Will Be Revealed”

On, Sunday, July 28, 2013, the Cabinet of the State of Israel voted to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a pre-condition to resuming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. All 104 are serving life sentences for murders and terrorist acts they committed PRIOR to the Oslo Accords. On Monday July 29, 2013, Defense Minister Mr. Moshe Ya’alon made the following comments: “In the future the strategic considerations behind the decision will be revealed.” He added, “We had to choose between a bad decision and an even worse one.  It wasn’t an easy day.  These are murderers and of course we’ll pay a price in terms of deterrence.”
Defense Minister Ya’alon’s words tapped into a series of my long time ago memories. I found myself thinking back to a day in May, 1989, when my late husband, the diplomat, David Ben-Rafael, a lawyer working in the Legal Advisor’s Office of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs came home for dinner. David, was by nature, a calm, logical, methodical person not easily given to allowing his work to interfere in our family life. That long time ago evening, David was visibly agitated and upset. When I asked him what was bothering him, he carefully weighed his words and then with unusually strong emotion responded: “I am working on papers related to the arrest of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin*, I can’t really tell you about it, so I won’t say anything further. Except that I will share this with you: We don’t get second chances often. Now that we’ve got him in prison again, we must be very, very sure that we NEVER EVER release him.” 
(*Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a Sunni Muslim, together with Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi founded Hamas in 1987. He had been released from an Israeli Prison as part of the Jibril Agreement. In May, 1989, he was arrested for having ordered the kidnapping and murder of two IDF soldiers, Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas. Yassin was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment.)     
Fast Forward:
October, 1991: The Madrid Talks begin. Our pro-peace household is overjoyed and hopeful that a two state solution may be achieved.   
February 16, 1992: Prime Minister Mr. Yitzhak Shamir orders the targeted killing of Hezbollah Secretary General Abbas al-Musawi. Musawi, his wife, son and 4 others are killed. 
March 17, 1992 at 14:50 (2:50 p.m.): In retaliation, Hezbollah plants a car bomb which destroys the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. David and 29 others are killed in that attack. On this day I become a  widow, mother to two children under the age of five. I begin my years long struggle with personal sadness and loneliness combined with the difficulty of raising two children without a father.
September 13, 1993: In memory of David, Prime Minister Mr. Rabin, invites me to attend the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington, D.C., I am part of the official Israeli delegation and witness the signing on the White House lawn.      
September, 1993 to November, 1995: The Israeli Right continually reminds us, “Why did you give them guns?” “This Peace Is Killing Us.” Violence increases, as the Right Wing’s protests against Rabin’s government swing into full gear during the summer of 1995. Violence increases, due to the frequent terrorist attacks the citizens of the State of Israel sustain. 
4 November 1995: Prime Minister Mr. Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a lone assassin who sought to derail the peace process.  The assassin succeeds.
December, 1995 to 26 May 1996: Election campaign pitting Labor’s Shimon Peres and Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu. The Likud slogan “Netanyahu – Making a Safe Peace” constantly rings in the nation’s ears but does not succeed in drowning out the anguished cries of hundreds of victims killed in continual terrorist attacks and bus-bombings.
May 26, 1996: I, a sober peace-seeking leftist, who firmly believe in the two-state solution, vote for Shimon Peres. Binyamin Netanyahu wins the election. Prime Minister Netanyahu “proceeds in stages” with the peace process.
September, 1996: Prime Minister Netanyahu together with then Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, opens an exit in the Arab Quarter for the Western Wall Tunnel. The opening to “The Rock of Our Existence” sparks three days of rioting resulting in the death of 17 Israeli soldiers and 70 Palestinians.
January, 1997: Prime Minister Netanyahu signs the Hebron Protocol with the Palestinian Authority. Israel Defense Forces are redeployed from Hebron and civilian authority of large parts of Hebron are handed to the Palestinian Authority.
September 25, 1997: Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet order the Mossad to kill Khaled Ma’shal, Hamas’ Jordanian branch chief, in retaliation for the 1997 Mahane Yehuda Market terrorist bombings. The assassination attempt fails, Jordan’s King Hussein demands that Netanyahu turn over the antidote for the poison, threatening to sever diplomatic relations and to try the detained Mossad agents.  Both Israel and Jordan deny that prisoner-exchange negotiations were held. But Ahmed Yassin, held from May 1989 and serving a life sentence is released on 6 October, 1997, in exchange for the deportation of the Mossad agents. I spend days crying bitter tears, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is a free man because of the Netanyahu ordered bungled hit. What David said should NEVER EVER happen, does. In the coming months and years Hamas terrorists directed by Yassin carry out hundreds of terrorist attacks against Israel’s civilian population. And after every single terror attack, I hear David’s words: “Now that we’ve got him in prison again, we must be very, very sure that we NEVER EVER release him.” 
Slowing Down Now:
June 11, 2003 at 17:30 (5:30 p.m.): Genia, beloved late wife of my partner Jay, is riding Jerusalem bus 14a on her way to a work meeting. A suicide bomber, dressed as an Orthodox Jew, acting on the orders of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Hamas, detonates an explosive device as the bus reaches the Davidka Square stop on Jaffa Road. Genia and 16 other people are killed in the attack.
March 22, 2004: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is killed by a missile shot from an Israeli Air Force helicopter. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the targeted killing. In so doing, Ariel Sharon, corrected the grievous error committed by Prime Minister Netanyahu when he released Yassin in 1997. In March 2004, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces is Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon. Today he is the Defense Minister of the State of Israel.  
Grinding to a Halt:
To the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu, I respectfully say: Sir, with seven years and 140 days, spread over three terms, you are the second longest serving Prime Minister after Prime Minister Mr. David Ben-Gurion.  One would think that such long service would bless you with a wealth of experience and knowledge in safely maneuvering our nation through all that we face. Instead all that it has given you is a blundering ability to survive, as, instead of leading, you zig-zag through our days causing us more harm than good.
And to Defense Minister Mr. Moshe Ya’alon, I respectfully say: Sir, our family; my two children and I, and Jay’s* five children and him; doesn’t have to wait until the future when “the strategic considerations behind this decision to release 104 Palestinians will be revealed”, as in the case of the released terrorist and leader of Hamas Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, we already know that this decision to release 104 Palestinian murderers, has the very strong potential to kill more innocent people and destroy more families. There are no easy days ahead.
*Jay, my partner, adds his own words:
“Worse, for me, than the release of prisoners who are potential terrorists is the feeling I have that Netanyahu is reacting to US demands rather than initiating an Israeli solution to the conflict.  Even after my disastrous loss, I am willing to accept that there are risks in compromise and strongly feel that a truly strong nation like Israel should be able to show its strength NOT only by making preemptive strikes (“ha-ba l’horgekha hashkem l’horgo” – “he who comes to murder you, agrees to his own murder”) but also by taking great risks to reach a negotiated settlement (“bakesh shalom v’rodphehu” – “Ask for peace and pursue it”).  I feel that the Likud’s approach of “talk LOUDLY and carry a big stick” is designed to undercut any serious negotiations and much prefer the approach taken by Begin and Dayan with the Egyptians and Rabin, Peres and Beilin with the Palestinians.  We knew that there would be a reaction from the Palestinian rejectionist camp (though I certainly did not know how personally I would be affected) and both then, before Genia’s murder and today, after it, I prefer an active peace program to a disguised rejectionist policy.  I do NOT want potential terrorists on the street, but would feel MUCH better about the release if I felt it was done to truly promote a two-state solution.”

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