Prisoners back home
After years of deliberations, negotiations and pressure, Israel has released into Jordanian custody four prisoners who had been in their jails since before the signing of the peace treaty in 1994. They will continue to serve time in Jordanian jails.
Last summer, I mentioned this issue during the Lebanon war. Israel’s willingness to exchange prisoners with Hezbollah, but not to release Jordanian prisoners to the Jordanian government had the effect of creating a credibility gap, and sent a bad message. It is good that this deal was not conducted in relationship with any prisoner deal with Hamas or Hezbollah.
The deal will allow for the Jordanian government to release the prisoners after 18 months. Of course, this will look bad for the Jordanian government, who will be accused imprisoning its own citizens on behalf of Israel. What is worse is that they have been imprisoned for attacking Israeli soldiers before the peace treaty was signed. These men are viewed as heroes to many people. Accusations of the government being an Israeli tool are already being made. It is too bad that making political points are more important to our opposition than alleviation of the suffering of the prisoners and their families.
While this deal will have dubious political benefits for the Jordanian government, it is great humanitarian step for the prisoners and their families. During their many years in prison, only two visits were allowed for their families. They will now be able to visit them on a regular basis. The 18 months in jail will be a picnic compared to the 99 years they were supposed to serve out in Israeli jails. The foreign minister said that they will be treated as “special cases”, presumably receiving preferential treatment. Jamil Nimri mentions that they may be released earlier if a deal allowing the release of Palestinian prisoners with similar sentences is made.
It is interesting that the foreign ministry says that there are 11 prisoners left in Israeli jails. Earlier numbers has suggested that there were around 30. Hopefully, accommodations will be made to release the rest and to put this source of tension behind us.
I would like to agree with Ibrahim Gharaibeh and say “good job”.