Israeli officials are asking why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- who claims to want to one day make peace with Israel -- met in Turkey on Tuesday with 11 former Palestinian prisoners, among them at least two convicted of murdering Israelis.
The 11 were released by Israel in October and deported to Turkey as part of the deal it struck with Hamas to secure the freedom of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
One of the terrorists Abbas met is Amna Muna – nicknamed the “Internet murderer” - convicted of luring an Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum in 2001 to killers in Ramallah. Another is Jihad Ya'amur, a perpetrator of the 1994 kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Nachshon Wachsman, a dual Israeli and U.S. citizen.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office condemned the meeting. According to Ha’aretz:
In response to Abbas' meeting, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement later Wednesday, saying that it was "shocking to see the man who claims to the whole world that he aims for peace with Israel, going as far as Turkey to meet a despicable murderer."
According to The Jerusalem Post:
Abbas told them that the issue of the prisoners was at the top of PA [Palestinian Authority] leadership's list of priorities. He said that the issue was being raised in all meetings between PA officials and world leaders.
The PA president, according to a statement released by his office, "praised the prisoners for remaining steadfast in the face of Israeli wardens' mastery." He also briefed the released prisoners on the latest developments in the region.
PMO [Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s] spokesman Mark Regev said that "instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting extremist murderers up on a pedestal... This raises serious questions as to their commitment and as to their desire to end the conflict."
A senior aide to Abbas rejected Israeli criticism of the meeting between Abbas and the former prisoners and accused the Israeli government of searching for excuses to sabotage the peace process.
It’s unclear how Israel criticizing Abbas’ praise of the prisoners would exactly “sabotage the peace process.”
It should be noted, Israel insisted on deportation outside the West Bank and Gaza for those who perpetrated the most severe crimes raising the question of why it was precisely these former prisoners Abbas chose to reward with a presidential meeting.
Watch the warm greeting and photo-op with the released convicts:
This is not the first time a senior Palestinian Authority official has honored convicted terrorists. On Wednesday, Palestinian Media Watch – a non-profit research group that translates the statements Palestinian officials make in the Arabic media – reported that the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs recently praised a convicted murderer as a "role model."
It reports that the minister, Issa Karake, last month on a visit with the family of terrorist Ahmad Sa'adat stated words of admiration and love he feels for the terrorist:
"To me, he [Ahmad Sa'adat] represents a very great value and he is a leader and a teacher and a school... he represents a human value and a cultural value, and he is a role model for us. When I am in the home of Ahmad Sa'adat I draw strength, I draw new spirit... I love you very much."
Ahmad Sa'adat is currently serving a 30 year sentence for heading the Marxist-Leninist militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Israel did not agree to release him as part of the Shalit swap.
While visiting the Sa’adat family, Minister Karake also took the opportunity to curse Israel, according to Palestinian Media Watch:
"May Allah curse the father of the occupation [Israel], and curse the father of the father of Israel, who came to this land which forced us to pay this price. But the future is ours, and victory is ours, Allah willing."
Netanyahu’s office called the Abbas-terrorists meeting “shocking.” In light of the numerous instances of prisoner glorification by the most senior Palestinian Authority officials, it’s certainly no surprise.
Watch the Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs on PA TV as translated by Palestinian Media Watch: