Abbas Abandons Palestinian Prisoners—and the Peace Process
More than a year of intensive shuttle-diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry is at risk of failure because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas bypassed the US-led peace negotiations and is, instead, unilaterally seeking recognition from at least 15 United Nations bodies. In addition to rejecting Kerry’s peace proposal, Abbas has also abandoned dozens of Palestinian prisoners. Some of them -- the terrorists, in particular -- might not have an easy time forgetting that occurrence.
In March 2014, Israel and the Palestinians endorsed Kerry’s "framework agreement" -- diplomatese for extending a peace deal that would establish an independent Palestinian state. Under the proposed peace agreement, Israel agreed to recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps and security assurances, in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and clear acknowledgement that the Palestinian refugees are to be absorbed in the future Palestinian state.
Israel has shown a firm willingness to accept the US framework for continued talks. As a gesture of goodwill, Israel last July agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, many convicted of murdering Israelis. In return, the Palestinians agreed not to apply for upgraded status as a state at the United Nations.
Abbas has repeatedly praised Kerry’s efforts and then flatly rejected his demands. During a visit to Washington in March, Abbas rejected at least three core, US-backed Israeli demands. He reportedly told President Obama that he won’t recognize "Jewish Israel," abandon the so-called "right of return" for millions of Palestinians, or commit to an "end of conflict."
Despite obvious misgivings about the direction of the negotiations and the numerous Israeli cabinet members who are publicly opposed to such a deal, Israel agreed to the release of a fourth batch of long-term Palestinian prisoners to extend peace talks -- so long as the Palestinians did not take unilateral steps at the United Nations.
Israel released three groups of prisoners -- 78 in total -- but delayed the release of the fourth batch. Israel first wanted a commitment from Abbas to extend the peace talks past the April 29 deadline. If Abbas wanted the fourth prisoner release to occur, all he had to do was agree to keep talking.
Instead, Abbas hastily resorted to unilateral action. He signed documents that would allow Palestinians to join at least 15 international treaties and conventions which guarantee, among other things, the rights of women, children, and the disabled in times of war.
The Palestinians are in flagrant violation of at least 11 of these treaties and conventions. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, for instance, requires all signatories to commit themselves to pursue measures to end discrimination against women. In 2013, so-called honor killings in the West Bank and Gaza doubled. In at least ten other treaties and conventions, the Palestinians are in clear violation of their obligations.
In rejecting Kerry’s framework, Abbas has not only made a genuine peace agreement impossible, he has also turned his back on twenty-six Palestinian prisoners, a clear breach of the most basic position underpinning his agenda for the peace talks.
Abandonment is a difficult wound to heal. It instills feelings of hurt, neglect, and toxic shame. Even for a person with boundless courage and moral fiber -- like Russian Refusnik, Natan Sharansky, who endured unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Soviet Union -- it can be difficult to fully forget the deep disappointment of longing failure.
Terrorists have rejected all ethical standards. Palestinian terrorists have kidnapped, lynched, and murdered Israeli soldiers. They have ambushed, maimed, and slaughtered unarmed Israeli and Arab civilians. They have also jailed, tortured, and executed suspected collaborators.
The Arabs have long memories. One wonders whether some of the prisoners Abbas consigned to further imprisonment will have a particularly tough time restraining their resentment toward him for abandoning them.