On Oct. 29, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners: 21 to the West Bank and five to the Gaza Strip. The release is the second of four being made by Israel in an attempt to bring the Palestinian Authority back to peace negotiations.
While these prisoners were welcomed by their families as heroes, let’s not forget that these people were prisoners for a reason.
Damouni Saad Mohammed Ahmed, one of the released prisoners, was convicted in 1990 for taking part in the murder of an Israeli Defense Forces reservist. The reservist was severely beaten and then killed when his car was fire bombed.
Abu-Dahila Hasan Atik Sharif was serving a sentence for stabbing his employer to death after working for him for 15 years on a dairy farm.
Muaid Salim was arrested in 1992 for being involved in a group that swam from Aqaba in southern Jordan to Eilat, where they shot to death a 62-year-old security guard at the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences.
The men who were released are not just criminals, they are terrorists — people who have proven they are a danger to society. And yet Israel agreed to set them free for the chance to negotiate peace. This strategic, risky move would not have even been possible without the incredible progress Israel has made in the past decade at creating relative stability with the neighboring Palestinian territories, especially with the West Bank.
In the years since the end of the Second Intifada, measures made by Israel have brought about safety to the region for both sides. According to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the security fence has brought about a 90 percent reduction in terrorist attacks in Israel since its creation in 2003. The number of Israeli civilians murdered by Palestinian terrorists has decreased from 430 in 2005 to zero in 2012. Without Israel creating safety and stability, no peace talks would be possible.
Despite the incredible results Israel has accomplished, its security faces increased uncertainty with the recent instability seen in the surrounding nations.
The military coup in Egypt threatens the generally peaceful relationship that the two countries have had since they signed a peace treaty in 1979.
The brutal, ongoing civil war in Syria poses a strategic defense challenge for Israel, as fighting is occurring so close to its northern border.
In Jordan, which has been Israel’s most amicable neighbor, Palestinian and Syrian refugees are estimated to make up a combined 40 percent of its total population. The strain of that huge number on the kingdom’s resources will inevitably cause some drastic change in its operation.
And Iran, even though it is not Israel’s immediate neighbor, continues to place the most severe threat on Israel as it constantly works to obtain nuclear weapons for Israel’s destruction while funding Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.
A strong Israel is the keystone holding this chaotic region together. The only true democracy in the Middle East allows for a thriving economy, which has become integral to the world market despite attempts to hinder it with sanctions.
A strong Israel means a secure Israel. A secure Israel means a stable and safe Middle East. Only when there is safety and stability in the region is there any possibility of creating a genuine, lasting peace.
Josh Dienstman is a biomedical engineering major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].