No matter how you look at it, Israel agreeing to release 104 Palestinian prisoners — many of them terrorists — is emotionally devastating. On Tuesday, Israel will release the first 26, of whom 17 have killed Israelis.
The list of their atrocities is long. One killed a 67-year-old Holocaust survivor with an ax at a construction site where they worked. Another killed a 79-year-old reading a book on a public bench on the beach.
The 26 prisoners will be treated as heroes upon their release, paraded as a point of pride. They are expected to be received in the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
If their release could truly bring about a lasting peace, it would be difficult, though perhaps justifiable. But this is not the case. They are being freed as a precondition — a supposed sign of Israeli “good will” — to the beginning of peace talks that are expected to fail.
This is not the first time Palestinian prisoners have been let go. For example, Israel released 1,027 prisoners in 2011 in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held in captivity by Hamas for over five years. That at least produced the tangible benefit of Shalit’s return.
I’ve detailed the reasons why these talks are doomed to fail. They’re being treated as a way for Israel to increase its legitimacy in the eyes of the so-called “international community” that loves nothing more than to demonize the country. To be sure, improving Israel’s international standing — especially in the eyes of Europe — is a noble and important goal for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue. And beginning peace talks placates the Obama administration, whose support Netanyahu will need should the time come to deal with the impending Iranian nuclear threat. But this need to better Israel’s image is largely due to a Palestinian campaign against the state, including measures such as applying for statehood in the United Nations.
Supporters of the prisoner release have criticized opponents for being emotional. They’re absolutely right. But when murderers are being released only to appease Israel’s critics, how can we not be emotional?