Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came under strong criticism on Tuesday for this week's release of 429 convicted Palestinian Arab terrorists from Israeli jails.
Mr. Olmert freed the security prisoners as part of yet another goodwill gesture toward Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. The prime minister assured Israelis that he had only released terrorists who had never succeeded in killing anyone.
But a report released Almagor, an organization representing victims of Palestinian terrorism, warned that most of the terrorists released in previous goodwill gestures toward Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, returned to violence and remedied their previous failure to kill Israelis. Over the past decade, terrorists released from Israeli prisons have gone on to carry out at least 30 major attacks resulting in the deaths of no fewer than 177 Israelis, according to the report.
Speaking to Army Radio on Wednesday, Israeli army chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also noted that Israel's willingness to release hundreds of terrorists as a mere gesture was making it harder to demand the release of an Israeli soldier being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel, said Ashkenazi, should not release any more Palestinian prisoners unless it is in exchange for Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage in Gaza since June 25 of last year.