Following the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, the ministers hastily went on their way without any of them stopping by the demonstrators calling for the release of Gilad Shalit. Not one of them is prepared to "take responsibility" for the release of Palestinian terrorist-prisoners into the West Bank. After all, the prime minister says it is too great a security risk. The head of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, once again explained that releasing too generous a number of prisoners would only encourage Hamas to abduct additional Israelis. Next time the ministers should ask Diskin for a translated copy of the Arabic-language book "A Look at the Opposition from Inside." This important document, written by Mohammed Arman, a member of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who was sentenced to 36 life imprisonments, may perhaps change the opinions of those who oppose a deal for Shalit's release.
Last month, Ronen Bergman, in an article in Yedioth Ahronoth, described Arman's book as "a secret document that was smuggled out with the intention of setting the West Bank alight." The Israeli Middle East expert Dr. Matti Steinberg knows this "secret document" well. He found it some four months ago displayed on a pro-Hamas Internet site. The author had taken pains to note that he allowed the book to be reprinted and published without prior permission. Bergman wrote that "if anyone was looking for a reason for the Shin Bet's insistence on not releasing some of the central names that appear on the list of the 450 prisoners the Hamas is demanding, including the name of Arman, the book will certainly provide it."
Steinberg, who was adviser on Palestinian affairs to four heads of the Shin Bet, is of the opinion that the document by Arman not only does not justify the Shin Bet's position; he says the book actually shows up a series of weak points in the Shin Bet's position on the Shalit deal. First, Arman disputes the concept that freeing prisoners to their homes in the West Bank will increase terror in the area, and he offers his admiration for the intelligence ability of the Shin Bet and its ability to track down terrorists. In view of Israel's success in disrupting the pipelines of command of the terrorist organizations, Arman recommends that Hamas change tactics from bombings to steep trajectory rocket fire on the basis of the Gaza model.
Steinberg is not alarmed by the demand to allow the Hamas prisoners to return to their homes in the West Bank. The Shin Bet's deployment and technological means in the West Bank - says the researcher, author of the book "Unending Quest: Development of the Palestinian National Consciousness, 1967-2007" (Yedioth Aharonoth Publishing ) - are incomparably better than the tools the organization has at its disposal in the Gaza Strip or any other place in the world. In other words, Mohammed Arman is more dangerous in Amman than in Ramallah. Moreover, as Amos Harel reported here yesterday, security sources rely on the ability and motivation of the Palestinian security mechanisms to deal with Hamas to such an extent that they are now considering allowing Israelis to once again begin visiting towns in the West Bank.
According to this senior Hamas member, who was convicted of the murder of more than 40 Israelis, there is no connection between the Shalit deal and the efforts of that organization to kidnap more Israelis. He stresses that kidnapped Jews are the most effective guarantee for Hamas leaders to prevent their own targeted assassination. Arman describes at length the traditional sensitivity among our neighbors to the fate of every one of their soldiers and civilians, and notes that every one of them considers himself to be Gilad Shalit. Steinberg concludes from this that, whether or not Gilad Shalit is released, Hamas will not miss out on any opportunity to kidnap Israelis.
Arman points out that he wrote his book after a thorough study, based on a lengthy series of interviews with his fellow prisoners. Most of them were not acquainted before that with one another and did not even know of the existence of the other squads. But it transpired that at the beginning of 2002, all the groups were given instructions from above to thwart the Arab Peace Initiative (which was first confirmed that year ). The instructions were carried out in full: the attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya on the first night of Passover, which took the lives of 30 victims attending a seder, led to Israel's invasion of the West Bank. Operation Defensive Shield, as it was known, did not permit the peace initiative that had been accepted on March 28 in Beirut to gain the attention of the Israeli public.
Today, as well, more than eight years later, Arman and his colleagues in Hamas can still look with satisfaction at the difficulties facing the two-state solution and the possibility of the Arab world opening up to Israel. As far as is known, Diskin did not warn the government about the long-term implications of missing the latest opportunity for a deal with Hamas on Shalit.
A matter 'of priorities'
It is not very pleasant to see a synagogue that has been sealed. Particularly if that house of worship is located in the heart of "Judea and Samaria." What can one do if a sealing order for this building, which was constructed in the El Matan outpost, is pending and if there is also a petition to the High Court of Justice (from the heads of the neighboring Palestinian village councils, assisted by the Yesh Din human rights organization ) over the laxity with which that order is being carried out?
The Shomron Settlers Committee submitted a petition of its own, and received an interim order against the execution of the order to destroy the building. The Court, as if such a move was obvious, decided it would deal with the two petitions simultaneously.
And the state - what does it have to say? On the one hand, the prosecution claimed during the hearings in the High Court of Justice recently, that there is no reason to intervene in its decision to enforce the order. On the other hand, as usually happens, it is a matter "of priorities." Who is in a hurry to demolish a synagogue? The Civil Administration has, as is well known, a long list of illegal buildings waiting to be taken down. Attorney Shlomi Zachariya, who is representing Yesh Din, says it is difficult for him to free himself of the feeling that this situation of contradictory decisions is convenient for the Defense Ministry and the law enforcement authorities.
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