Last December Israel conducted the third of four planned prisoner releases, part of a basket of confidence building measures designed to coax Palestinian diplomats into peace negotiations and keep them there. Each release has proven more controversial than the last, with the Palestinian public and Palestinian leaders staging spectacles celebrating the freed murderers as heroes.
Issa Abd Rabbo – a Palestinian terrorist who in 1984 came upon two Israeli university students who were hiking, tied them up at gunpoint, and then murdered them – was among those released last October. Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas embraced him at a ceremony celebrating the release and lifted up Rabbo’s hands in victory. The effusiveness was directly linked to deepening misgivings among Israelis regarding the releases.