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Freeing Prisoners

It’s a curious phenomenon in today’s Middle East debate that those who speak most passionately of peace are frequently the least willing to take the steps needed to bring it.

Friends and defenders of Israel have mounted an international campaign in recent days to block the release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for involvement in terrorism. Their argument is that peace, while desirable, should not short-circuit justice. Terrorists imprisoned for murder should complete their prison terms, not be rewarded for their deeds.

But peace, when it comes, will require an end of conflict. That means ending claims by both sides against one another, laying down arms and — painful though it may be — letting go of the past. Palestinians must accept — and absorb into their value system — the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. Israelis, in turn, must accept that the Palestinians who attacked them over the years, however despicable their methods were not common criminals but fighters in a cause.

That is how it has been time and again, from Kenya to South Africa to India and, for that matter, Israel. While the struggle went on, terrorists and guerrillas were arrested, tried and sentenced. When peace came, the fighters went free.

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