Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Analysis: Goodwill Gesture to PA Doesn't Work

Hillel Fendel

An Arab affairs film producer and commentator points out that the PA does not at all view the release of nearly 200 terrorists as the goodwill gesture Prime Minister Olmert says it is. Khaled Abu Toameh details several reasons why the release of 199 PA Fatah terrorists decided upon by Olmert's government on Sunday does no good for PA chairman Abbas. Nor does it raise Israel's stock in the eyes of the PA public, he writes in The Jerusalem Post.

Among the terrorists to be released are two who were serving life sentences for the murders of Yehoshua Saloma, Tzila Galili, and an Arab prisoner. Dozens of others were convicted of attempted murder and "shooting at people."

Abu Toameh is an Israeli-Arab journalist and documentary filmmaker, correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and U.S. News and World Report, and Palestinian affairs producer for NBC News.

Released Terrorists are Headache for PA
"The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails strengthens the 'moderates' has never proven to be correct," Abu Toameh writes. "Ironically, in some cases the released prisoners turned out to be a big headache for the 'moderate' Palestinian leadership... [Many of them] soon became involved in various criminal activities ranging from armed robberies, extortion, theft and arms trafficking. Others later joined Hamas and other radical groups and became actively involved in armed attacks on Israel during the second intifada."

The released terrorists also became a financial burden for the PA, the commentator notes, as it had to "put the local 'heroes' on its payroll and pay them salaries, although many of them were not doing any work."

PA Public Not Impressed
With thousands of PA terrorists and prisoners in Israeli jails, the release of a few hundred here and there always elicted a disappointed PA reaction of "too little, too late," Toameh notes.

Hamas Won Anyway
If Israel's goal is to boost the standing of Abbas and Fatah in the PA, the facts on the ground show that this simply did not work, Toameh points out. Hamas handily defeated Fatah in the parliamentary elections in early 2006, and also drove Fatah and Abbas out of Gaza in June 2007.

Israel's Motives Discredited
Toameh says it is "highly unlikely that Abbas would benefit from the release of the prisoners because many Palestinians don't give him credit for the move. Rather, these Palestinians see the decision as an attempt on the part of Israel to improve its image on the international arena and extract political concessions from Abbas and his colleagues in Ramallah."

Furthermore, "the decision is seen by Hamas and its supporters as an Israeli attempt to drive a wedge between Fatah and Hamas and deepen divisions among the Palestinians."

Israel has released close to 3,000 PA terrorists and prisoners over the past 12 years.

Toameh quotes "moderates" in Ramallah who welcomed the latest release but "were quick to emphasize that it was insufficient and that Israel must now free all the security prisoners."

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