Israel said on April 3 that it would not go ahead with a release of 26 Palestinian inmates from Israeli prisons, which had been planned as part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to keep the peace process alive.
But every time there is talk of a potential prisoner release, Stephen and Roz Flatow wait anxiously at their West Orange home to learn whether their daughter’s killers are about to be freed.
Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old student at Brandeis University, was on a bus, heading to the beach, when two terrorist members of Islamic Jihad detonated the bomb that killed her near Kfar Darom on April 10, 1995.
“The Israeli government doesn’t notify me,” Stephen Flatow told NJ Jewish News in an April 3 interview. “Victims’ parents are usually the last people to know who is being released. The Israel Prison Service does put out lists, and you have to check line-by-line. But I haven’t heard anything.”
Flatow said some Israelis who have lost loved ones to terror attacks “literally take to the streets outside the Prime Minister’s Office and his residence because they are not being kept in the loop of who is being considered for release. Being in their face is the only way they can get attention from the Israeli government.”
Flatow, an attorney, said he might support a prisoner release if it led to genuine progress in the peace process, but history has given him little faith it would.
“Of course it’s worth it. Get rid of these prisoners, be done with them, and if there is actually a Palestinian society that wants to live civilly and socially next door to Israel, the walls should come down, the fences should come down, and their economy will grow based upon the Israeli model. Then everything will be fine.
“But do I think it is going to happen? No.
“The question is: When are the Israelis going to recognize there are Palestinians indigenous to the area, and when are the Palestinians going to recognize there are Jews indigenous to the area?” asked Flatow. “Once that happens it will be a giant step toward a Palestinian state, but I just don’t see it happening. My personal point of view is the less we have to do with the Palestinian government and the Palestinian population, the better off we are. There is an incredible amount of hatred.”
Flatow said he makes no distinction between his daughter’s killers and the Palestinians who were released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the freedom of captured Israel soldier Gilad Shalit.
“I think it was a terrible precedent that was set. I think that a country that had prided itself on not giving into terrorist releases over the years was slowly but steadily doing that…. What people in Israel are telling me is that fellows they released are going back into the terrorist business,” Flatow said.
The latest talk of a prisoner release was complicated by reports that the United States would release Jonathan Pollard, an American naval intelligence officer who is serving a life sentence for selling classified secrets to Israel in 1985.
Flatow called the issue “window dressing. I don’t know how it improves [Prime Minster Benjamin] Netanyahu’s situation in Israel, but maybe the Obama administration is trying to make Netanyahu look good by securing Pollard’s release.”