Several of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israeli authorities on Tuesday voiced little remorse over their criminal actions that landed them in prison.
“I have no regrets,” Ismat Mansour, who killed Haim Mizrahi near the West Bank settlement of Beit El almost twenty years ago, told a Channel 2 news reporter. ”I was part of the struggle of my people, I don’t reconsider my contribution.”
Mansour was freed from prison in August during the first of four waves of prisoner releases which were a precondition to renewed peace talks, and returned to Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah in the early hours of Tuesday to greet the latest released prisoners. Asked whether he believed murdering an innocent civilian ultimately helped the Palestinian cause, Mansour replied that in his mind, settlers are guilty of crimes against his people.
“Well, if you put it that way, then no, I don’t believe [it helped the cause],” he said, “but if you tell me that the civilian was a settler, on my land, and that he provokes me every day, then of course I have an urge to resist him, even hurt him.”
Another released convict, Ahmed Shah’ade, who murdered Yosef Farhan in 1985, echoed Mansour’s statements.
“What should I regret, what do I have to regret?” he said.
The 26 men were freed in the third of four waves of Palestinians, convicted by Israel before the 1993 Oslo Accords, to be released as part of a precondition to renewed peace talks, which began in July 2013.
Still, the Channel 2 news reporter observed, many of the freed prisoners wished to focus on their future actions rather than their operations in the past, and said they were eager to resolve the ongoing conflict through negotiation with Israel over a long-term peace agreement.
“Peace, we want to sit, talk, solve problems,” said Rammadan Yaakub, who murdered Sara Sharon in Holon in 1993.
We are against kidnapping soldiers, because we are now discussing negotiations with the goal of achieving results,” said Muhalis Suafata, who in 1991 stabbed an Israeli citizen to death. ”We are against the way of violence, we believe in peace and support peace.”
Ahmed Halef, a resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, was quoted by Ynet saying that the Palestinian people love freedom, and that “I hope that soon [the world] will recognize a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem.” He added that “whoever wants to go on the path of peace needs to forget the past and look to a better future.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted Israel’s neighbors for celebrating the release overnight Monday of the 26 prisoners, saying the reaction reflected the difference between Israel and its negotiating partners.
“The essence of the difference between us and our neighbors can be seen in one picture,” Netanyahu said at the seventh annual Galilee Conference in Tiberias, referring to the sight of throngs of Palestinians giving the released prisoners — almost all of them convicted of murder — a hero’s welcome.
“While we prepare to take very painful steps in an effort to try and reach an agreement that would end the conflict, they, along with their top leadership, are celebrating,” said the prime minister.
“Murderers are not heroes,” he declared. “This is not how one educates for peace.”