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The DOJ’s hands-off policy was acutely in evidence in the fall of 2011, when Israel made a deal with Hamas and freed 1,027 convicted criminals in exchange for hostage Gilad Shalit. Fifteen of the released terrorists had murdered or maimed Americans, but the DOJ essentially did nothing more than gather information. No hot pursuits, no indictments, no extraditions.
A group of 54 of America’s congressmen, no longer willing to abide DOJ negligence, wrote a bipartisan letter in March 2012 to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to adhere to the mandates of the law of the United States.
A DOJ public email, disseminated shortly afterward, raised hopes of a more concerted effort to follow, and the DOJ did seem to step up its support services for victims’ families; however, it still is failing to vigorously pursue a complete course of justice, and hardly “taking the matter of prosecuting terrorists very seriously,” as the email claimed.
Congress must increase its pressure on the DOJ so that it finally acts effectively. Moreover, American lawmakers should anticipate another negotiated terrorist release, and should task officials with formulating a plan to intervene long before that occurs.
At a minimum, the United States must demand that Palestinians who have harmed Americans be excluded from release in Israeli-P.A./Hamas deal-making and that they do not receive sanctuary in P.A. territory.
Justice and deterrence are pillars that ensure a society’s integrity and safety. Permitting terrorists with American blood on their hands to walk away scot-free, under any circumstances, is not just an abuse of the rights of victims and their families — it is bad policy.
Which brings us back to the murderers of Asher and Yonatan. With premature prisoner release a regrettable fact of life, the DOJ has to act now to ensure that the United States will be well positioned to keep their killers behind bars.
If, in the end, Wa’al al-Arjeh, Ali Saadeh and their accomplices do not get the punishments they deserve, the United States will have failed once again to honor its pact with victims and with society. We, and Congress as our representative, must not let that happen.
Michael Palmer is the father/grandfather of Asher and Yonatan Palmer. Jeff Daube, the Israel director of the Zionist Organization of America, contributed to this opinion piece.