Would someone today agree to release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from prison? Would it even occur to anyone to ask this question? The answer depends on which button is pressed in the time machine.
About 10 years ago, when Yassin was released from prison, the test of “blood on the hands” – the self-righteous litmus test that changes colors whenever Israel has to release prisoners – was less stringent. Yassin was released in exchange for two Mossad agents who were incarcerated in Jordan after the operational failure to kill Khaled Meshal. How much blood on his hands did he have then? How much did he have afterward? How much blood was on the hands of the prisoners Israel released in the Taba agreement, known as Oslo B, in 1995? At that time, a ministerial committee determined that the criteria for releasing prisoners with “blood on the hands” would be the completion of two-thirds of their sentence and the signing of a commitment to support the peace accords. Haaretz wrote in an editorial at the time that despite the enormous difficulty and pain involved in the release, “there is no other way.”