Right-wing MK sends bitter letter to ‘hypocritical’ Kerry over prisoner releases
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Right-wing MK sends bitter letter to ‘hypocritical’ Kerry over prisoner releases

Ayelet Shaked accuses secretary of state of endangering Israeli lives, tells him to focus on Egypt and Syria 'where people are being slaughtered'

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

MK Ayelet Shaked (left), seen with Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett during a party meeting at the Knesset. (photo credit: Flash90)
MK Ayelet Shaked (left), seen with Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett during a party meeting at the Knesset. (photo credit: Flash90)

Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked berated US Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday for helping engineer the release of Palestinian prisoners for the sake of jumpstarting peace talks, denouncing him for “foolishly” risking her and her children’s lives.

In a letter sent to America’s top diplomat and released to the press, Shaked, chair of the right-wing party’s faction in the Knesset, called on Kerry to focus his energies on other crises in the region. By forcing Israel to engage in peace talks, she wrote, Kerry was raising unrealistic expectations that, if frustrated, ran the risk of the entire Middle East spinning “out of control.”

While many Israelis similarly regard the prisoner release as a high price to pay for talks, the contentious language — not to mention the poor English — employed in the letter is remarkable for a missive from a coalition parliamentarian at the start of peace talks. Moreover, the talks have been portrayed as important to Israel’s interests by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also said the prisoner releases were undertaken in Israel’s wider interests.

“Mr. Secretary of State — by forcing Israel to capitulate to terrorism by releasing murdering terrorists with so much blood on their hands that the United States would never dream of releasing them if it was their own citizens whom they murdered – you are not only being extremely hypocritical, but are actually dabbling in experimentation and gambling, by putting me and my children’s lives at risk,” Shaked wrote in the letter.

“Your forcing us to release these terrorists with actual blood on their hands is made all the more absurd, cynical and vicious by the fact that your country refuses until this day to release Jonathan Pollard from jail, despite the unprecedented term he has served thusfar [sic],” she added, referring to the Israeli-American spy serving a life sentence in an American prison for treason.

Saeb Erekat, left, John Kerry, center, and Tzipi Livni at a July press conference in Washington restarting peace talks (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)
Saeb Erekat, left, John Kerry, center, and Tzipi Livni at a July press conference in Washington restarting peace talks (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)

“Mr. Secretary: the price of releasing over a hundred convicted murders will be borne by my family & my people, not by you,” Shaked, a mother of two, continued. “How will you carry the burden of the terrible price towards which you are leading us?”

After six visits in the region and a relentless push to get Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations, Kerry last month managed to persuade the two sides to agree to engage, over the course of at least nine months, in comprehensive final-status talks designed to end the conflict through the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Ahead of the talks, Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners over the course of negotiations, all of whom were convicted of terrorism. Israel released the first group of 26 prisoners on Tuesday.

A close confidant of Jewish Home chairman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Shaked opened her letter by acknowledging that she refused to be “bound by the restraints of ‘politically correct’ wording.”

The 37-year-old freshman lawmaker from Tel Aviv accused Kerry of forcing Israel into peace talks while the entire Middle East was in state of chaos — “without realizing that by doing so, you have foolishly put us in an impossible situation, in which we cannot and will not make any concessions.”

The top US diplomat raised expectations to a dangerous level that “might cause the whole region to spin out of control once those expectations are proven unrealistic, like so many times before,” Shaked wrote.

“The past four years in Israel have been as quiet and peaceful as ever. Therefore, I suggest to you that you perform your job in a much more effective and relevant fashion by focusing your attention on Syria and Egypt, where people are actually getting slaughtered.”

Copies of the letter were sent to Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, and the American ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro.

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