When President George W. Bush was governor of Texas, 150 men and two women were executed for their crimes by the state, a record unequalled by any other governor. As Bush wrote in his 1999 autobiography, “A Charge to Keep,” he believed that granting clemency to killers would not serve as a deterrent to crime. Just the opposite: It would send a dangerous signal that, if you do the crime, you won’t necessarily have to do the time – or pay for it with your own life.
It was this moral clarity that formed the vision for Bush’s famous speech (the Bush Doctrine on terrorism) regarding Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. He recognized Arafat as a terrorist and refused to have anything to do with him.
Unfortunately, this same moral clarity did not extend to Bush’s expectations of PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. With no apparent justification, the president sees Abbas as the great Palestinian hope for peaceful coexistence with Israel, instead of Arafat’s life-long No. 2 and partner in terrorism. Bush has chosen to ignore how Abbas portrays himself differently, depending on his audience. In America, he speaks of his need for Israeli concessions in order to bolster his position as Arafat’s successor; to the masses at home, he speaks frankly of how Arafat is the only leader of the Palestinian people.
Despite his lip service regarding the PA’s commitment under the “roadmap” to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, Abbas has not disarmed or arrested terrorist fugitives. That is why two more suicide bombers murdered Israelis the week of Aug. 13, despite the so-called hudna (cease-fire) declared by the terrorists at the end of June.
Given Abbas’ record so far, it is incredible that Israel has undertaken – with America’s blessing – to make yet another unreciprocated goodwill gesture by releasing Palestinian prisoners. So far, Israel has released several hundred of a total of some 6,000. Of this number, about a third are convicted felons serving time for burglary and car theft to illegal entry. Another third are what Israel calls “administrative detainees” – Palestinians held on suspicion of involvement in terrorism, but who haven’t yet been tried. The remaining third are the hard-core terrorists – the ones referred to by Israel as “having blood on their hands” and whom Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed never to free.
While most of those released so far belonged to the first category, it is instructive to note the fate of one prisoner who does in fact have Israeli blood on his hands, but was released for “humanitarian reasons” as part of a goodwill gesture on the eve of the Aqaba summit in June with Bush, Sharon and Abbas.
Fatah member Ahmed Jbarra, 68, was released after serving 28 years of a life sentence for planting a bomb-laden refrigerator in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on July 4, 1975. Jbarra murdered 14 Israelis and wounded and maimed more than 60.
The day of his release, he reported to his leader, Yasser Arafat, in Ramallah, where he received a hero’s welcome. Arafat immediately appointed him his personal adviser on prisoners’ affairs. At a rally in Bethlehem shortly afterward, Jbarra called on his fellow Palestinians to kidnap Israeli soldiers in order to exchange them for the remaining Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
According to the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Information Center, which reported the event, Jbarra also praised the Palestinians for killing one Jew for every three Palestinians killed during the current intifada, noting that in the previous intifada, the figure stood at one Jew for every 28 Palestinians killed in clashes with the IDF.
These are the words of an elderly terrorist who has spent most of the past three decades behind bars and may be expected to have retired from an active role in slaughtering Israelis. But most of the remaining 2,000 or so terrorist murderers are men in their 20s who are eager to return to the fight against Israel. No doubt many are willing to enter paradise as “holy martyrs” by blowing themselves up in an Israeli pizza parlor or shopping mall.
How would governor Bush have handled an unrepentant Ahmed Jbarra’s appeal for clemency after 14 murders? There’s little doubt given Bush’s record, and the fact that Texas is where more than a third of all executions in the United States have occurred since 1976. It should be pointed out that in the 55 years since its independence, Israel has executed only a single person: Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Despite the fact that, as of last week, 828 Israelis have been killed by terrorists since September 2000, Israel has no death penalty.
What has happened to the moral clarity of vision of the leader of the Western world on the road from the governor’s mansion to the White House? A man who denied clemency to 152 murderers is now calling upon Israel to release 2,000 murderers so they can resume their carnage. Perhaps a fitting solution would be to make these prisoners U.S. citizens … and give them land in Texas.