Israel will trade 26 more terrorists for between 1,000 and 2,000 new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria, according to a government official quoted by Israeli television Wednesday.
There is a broad consensus in Israel against freeing more terrorists in the four-step release plan to release 104 terrorists and security prisoners during the nine months that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has scheduled for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach an agreement on a future PA state without endangering Israeli security.
Kerry has set the rules of the game, and Netanyahu knows that rejecting the release on Sunday of more terrorists, even though PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not lived up to a promise to play by Kerry’s rules, would leave Israel checkmated in Abbas’ game to have international backing to skip talks and go to the United Nations for recognition. The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the release of the third batch of 104 terrorists.
Netanyahu’s ploy has been to announce new homes every time a batch of terrorists are freed. He did this in July and last month and is about to do so again, infuriating the Palestinian Authority and the European Union but not violating Kerry’s conditions.
Kerry has implied it was assumed that Israel would announce plans for new construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria, even though the United States calls Israelis in those areas “illegitimate.” President Barack Obama has called the settlements, including Palestinian Authority-claimed neighborhoods, in Jerusalem, “illegal.”
The Prime Minister can always climb down from a weak limb simply by announcing new homes but not going through with issuing tenders, particularly since the bureaucratic process for doing so could take months.
When Kerry dug up the remains of the “peace process” in July and forced Israel and Abbas to get back to the so-called negotiating table, he demanded that both sides not issue interim reports on the talks. Israel agreed to release terrorists only if there is progress in talks and if the Palestinian Authority does not resort to more violence.
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday blamed Abbas and the Palestinian Authority for the escalation in terrorist attacks, saying they directly incite Arabs to attack Israelis.
Since July, Palestinian Authority terrorists have murdered at least four Israelis and have carried out numerous other terrorist attacks, not including rock-throwing and fire bombings.
In addition, Abbas and his negotiators have consistently complained that no progress is being made, and he has threatened more than once to end the talks and go to the United Nations.
Kerry has four months left to come back to Washington with a deal.