Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister and now also self-styled judge, is proposing a new definition of murder. To enable him to comply with Hamas' demands for the release of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit, Olmert and his circle intend to wash the Jewish blood off the hands of terrorist leaders, dispatchers, instructors, planners and abettors. In their revised dictionary, murder will encompass only those who pull the trigger or detonate the bomb. One woman who must be rejoicing in her prison cell is Ahlam 'Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi. In 2006, she predicted Olmert's actions more accurately than almost anyone else when she said: "I am not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel's existence."
She is a mass murderer, so it would be worthwhile examining her profile. An Israeli court convicted the then 20-year-old Bir Zeit University student and journalist after receiving evidence of how she had spent many hours planning what was intended to be a bloody terror bombing in downtown Jerusalem. On August 9, 2001, Tamimi and a shiftless 23-year-old man from Jenin, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, headed for a taxi station in Ramallah with a guitar case packed with explosives. They rode to Jerusalem where they got out and proceeded on foot to the city center. Tamimi, dressed in the style of a modern Israeli woman and carrying a camera, spoke with the suicide bomber in English to pass for tourists. She led her accomplice to the target she had selected, the Sbarro restaurant in the bustling intersection of King George Street and Jaffa Road. Before leaving him, she reminded al-Masri to wait for 15 minutes before detonating the bomb so she would have ample time to escape the vicinity unharmed.
At 2 P.M., al-Masri obeyed instructions and blew up, taking the lives of 15 innocent Israelis including eight children. Among them was my daughter, Malki. Tamimi made it safely back to Ramallah where she presented the evening news on Palestinian Authority television. The first story was the massacre in Jerusalem. Of her role in that, she of course said not a word. She was subsequently tracked down by the Israeli authorities, arrested a month later, tried and convicted. She is now serving 16 consecutive life sentences. In case anyone believes that this monster has undergone a metamorphosis, the 2006 interview mentioned above should put that theory to rest. She also expounded then on her organization's intentions: "Hamas has principles in connection with discussion with Israel," she said. "Discussions will only take place after Israel recognizes that this is Islamic land."
She was subsequently interviewed for a documentary called "Hot House," which examined the lives of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. Learning from the filmmaker that her victims included eight children, three more than she had presumed, she smiled.
If her conduct is not convincing enough, there are the cold statistics that columnist Ehud Asheri trotted out this week in defense of Olmert's word games. "Granted, there is a risk that some of the prisoners will once again engage in terrorism if they are released," Asheri allowed. "But the facts show that this risk is exaggerated. Eighty-seven percent of the 6,912 terrorists who were released until 2003 did not target Israel again."
Either Asheri's mathematics skills are weak or he places trust in miracles. Here he was, assuring us that 1,590 released and experienced terrorists returning to ply their bloody trade aren't worth losing any sleep over.
No one is more familiar with the pain the Shalit family is experiencing than families whose child's life was extinguished by murder. We know what it is to awake every morning and face another day without that precious child. We share with the Shalits the same intense yearning to see, touch and speak to him again. We understand their willingness to do anything - anything at all - to bring him back. The Shalits must continue to pressure our government to exercise relentless efforts to free Gilad. Had Israel done everything that could have been done, he would have been back home with his parents and siblings long ago. But we, and the rest of the community of terror victims, must also continue to stir our leaders from their amnesia. It is a sad testament to the morality of our society that nobody else seems bothered by their impending releases. For us, though, the memories of the second intifada's terror tsunami are painfully vivid. We know that the most lethal of the terrorists are not the bombers or shooters. Those are merely the puppets of the true murderers: the leaders and the planners who were always careful to survive - the Ahlam Tamimis.
They sit patiently in our jails, unrepentant, able-bodied, determined to enlist fresh recruits. And confident that Olmert will soon unlock their cell doors.
Frimet Roth is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. Her daughter Malki was murdered at the age of 15 in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in 2001.