The agreement with the prisoners that was negotiated and signed can be seen here:
A few points are worth mention before we move to other issues.
The leaders, in signing the agreement, pledged to refrain from all activity that constitutes practical support for terrorism, e.g., recruitment, providing guidance. And yes, this is a laughable proposition. It means about as much as the pledge signed by terrorists, released in deals such the Shalit trade, that they will never return to terrorism.
Consider the implications of this: From within their prison cells, prisoners who are terrorist leaders have had sufficient access to the outside world to be able to get out messages that foment or promote terrorism. This, for all their laments.
The only advantage to securing such pledges that I see is that if terrorist leaders are caught breaking it, prison officials can declare the deal void. Whether they actually would -- or, rather, will -- is another issue.
Key aspects are elimination or reduction of solitary confinement and increased primary family visitation.
There is, obviously, a direct connection between the pledge by the prisoners to not promote terrorism and the concessions above.
Other issues relating to improved conditions are to be examined after the strike ends. I would imagine it is here that such matters as securing Israeli academic degrees while in prison will be examined. There had been allusions to the possible release of a few prisoners, but I have seen no more about this.
There is, thankfully, no mention of administrative detention in this agreement, and you might want to see what the IDF has to say about it:
"[It] is a lawful security measure allowing the deprivation of a person's liberty for a limited time. Administrative detention orders are used as a preventative measure against persons posing grave threats to the security of the West Bank or its population, such as persons directly involved in terrorism, whose detention is considered to be absolutely necessary for imperative reasons of security."
There are many safeguards incorporated into the process of detaining someone who is deemed a security risk, and a legal procedure must be followed. When you see this, you understand that we are not talking about the IDF arbitrarily grabbing people and locking them up.
MK Danny Danon, who has been very much a lone voice of protest lately, says he intends to bring the signed deal to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in order to stop its implementation.
Good thought, but his chances of success are close to nil.
Late yesterday the prime minister's spokesman, Mark Regev, announced that the concessions to the prisoners were made as a confidence-building gesture to PA president Abbas, in the hopes that it would bring peace closer. Abbas had made a request that the prisoners' demands be heeded, you see. (And, I will add, he also asked Molcho for the return of the bodies of 100 terrorists buried here, and this is to be done.)
This, even more than the commitment secured from the prisoner leaders, is laughable. But so pathetic, it's terribly hard to laugh.
First, it's quite clear that Israeli officials had other reasons for wanting to quiet things in the prisons:
Today is Nakba day. Nakba means catastrophe in Arabic, and refers to the day (in the secular calendar) that modern Israel was founded. In the Palestinian Arab world it is marked by demonstrations and violence, so that every year Israeli police and security forces gear up for trouble.
Today started with a rocket fired from Gaza, and Molotov cocktails in Hevron. During the course of the day, there have been clashes between Arab demonstrators and Israeli forces in several locations. Most disturbing is that some of the 200 Arab demonstrators at Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb) outside of Bethlehem threw rocks at Jewish worshippers.
Repeatedly -- in the last couple of days -- it was said that Israeli officials were hoping to quell unrest in the prisons before Nakba day, when it was anticipated the situation would get considerably out of hand.
Then too there is our relationship with Egypt with regard to the negotiations, which I've already dealt with. Egypt was much praised by the Arab world yesterday for what was achieved.
And there is that unfortunate sensitivity to international criticism leveled at us because we are so "cruel" to our prisoners.
Presenting the concessions as a voluntary gesture towards peace might have been an attempt to counter the celebrations in Gaza and PA areas regarding the "victory" over Israel: It puts a different spin on matters if we were doing this by choice and not because we were coerced.
But giving something to Abbas?? How many unreciprocated gestures has Israel made by now? And precisely where has it gotten us? Laughable? Or shameful?
Let's circle back for a moment to the matter of Nakba Day, which Abbas's Palestinian Authority observes. This is not an expression of longing for all the lands beyond the '67 lines, in which to establish a state. The premise here is that Israel does not have a right to the lands within the '67 lines -- that is, that Israel is not legitimate in any configuration.
How is peace possible with an entity that maintains this position? And how is it imagined that "gestures' such as giving murders of Jews more privileges in Israeli prisons will bring us even remotely closer to peace?
It's not difficult to understand what's going on, however. And this allows me to segue right into my next, related, topic:
Prime Minister Netanyahu is back in his "Look world, I'm the good guy and not the impediment to peace" mode.
Just a couple of days ago, Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, carried a letter from the prime minister to Abbas. Its contents were not revealed, officially. But as is the way in such situations, portions of the letter were leaked. Haaretz, citing someone who saw the letter, said it "included a pledge by Netanyahu to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state in keeping with the principle of a two-state solution."
A great deal has been made of this by media sources, who are saying that the letter, in writing on official stationery, represents a step forward in his commitment to the two-state solution. I'm not at all certain that this is the case: Netanyahu has made similar statements in various public pronouncements, most notably in his speech at Ben Gurion University.
Yes, it's in writing. But it is not a document that -- to the very best of my knowledge -- had the official backing of the Cabinet or the Inner Cabinet or the Knesset. It was Netanyahu's letter, and debate centers around whether this carries much in the way of "official" weight. Not so very long ago, Minister Benny Begin declared that Netanyahu's Ben Gurion speech "did not speak for the government."
Is it a small additional slide down that slippery slope upon which the prime minister situates himself? Possibly.
The point is made in some quarters that while he expresses commitment to a peace deal, he sets out security parameters, including that business of a "demilitarized state," that the PLO will never, ever accept.
With regard to being "demilitarized," please read what Jonathan Tobin has written regarding the fact that the PA is currently armed to the teeth and seeking additional weapons.
They'll not agree to being demilitarized in our lifetimes.
The bottom line, says Tobin, is that "Abbas has demonstrated time and again that he isn't willing or capable of signing a peace agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn."
Netanyahu full well knows this.
I think in part the prime minister may be playing to the left flank of his enlarged coalition. But even more he's playing to this:
The EU, after the monthly meeting of its foreign ministers on Monday, issued a statement that -- even after an effort by Italy to modify it -- was sharply critical of Israel, which is allegedly a stumbling block to "peace." Allusions were made to marked acceleration of settlement construction, formalization of the status of three outposts, and the proposal to relocate Migron to another hill "within the occupied Palestinian territory."
The EU is totally devoid of the integrity that permits comments on these issues. And I would prefer a different response here in Jerusalem.
But our prime minister handles matters as is his wont.
I had written about two similar versions of the "Illegal Outposts" legislation that were to be brought to the Knesset this week. A decision on doing this is awaiting the word from the prime minister regarding allowing people to vote their consciences and not adhere to party or coalition lines.
In light of what I've just written above, I have the feeling that this is not going to be forthcoming right now. And that will be very unfortunate, very sad, if it is so.
Let me close with this short good news clip about Israel from the people who brought you "Israel Inside":
Always, always, the good news too.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.