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Will my daughter's killers be set free?

Stephen M. Flatow- Saturday 19th Jul 2003

As the road map unfolds, like many concerned about events in Israel I find myself once again praying for the best while preparing for the worst. However, I do so from a vantage point different from many others.

About noon on Sunday, April 9, 1995, a young man named Khalid el-Khatib sat in a van parked alongside the northbound side of the road leading to the settlement of Kfar Darom. The van was loaded with explosives. Seeing his target, the No. 36 Egged bus on the route from Ashkelon to Gush Katif, el-Khatib stepped on the gas, aimed for the side of the bus and, when he hit it, detonated the explosives in his van.

Eight died because of that attack, among them my 20-year-old daughter, Alisa, and more than 40 were wounded, some permanently.

Personally new to terror and the shock that follows, in the weeks and months after the attack I didn't have much desire, or time, to think about the scope of the attack that was carried out by Islamic Jihad. I didn't ask who recruited el-Khatib to become a murderer, who bought the van, who made the bomb, or who provided the funding for all of it. And no one in law enforcement, either Israeli or American, volunteered any information.

Eighteen months later that began to change as my lawyers and I began to investigate the attack in connection with a planned lawsuit under a new American law that gave US citizens the right to sue foreign countries that sponsored terror attacks against them.

With information from the US State Department and material drawn from Israeli government demands upon the Palestinian Authority for the transfer to Israel of terrorists who had killed Israelis, I learned that at least 10 men had been involved in the attack at Kfar Darom.

NOT ALL of the 10 involved in the Kfar Darom attack were named in the transfer requests Israel presented to the Palestinian Authority. According to the US State Department two men were at large, two were in Israeli custody, and the rest were dead. Although I was never invited to testify at the trials of the two men in Israeli custody, in prison they were placed and there they would stay I was assured because Israel, we are told, will not release prisoners "with blood on their hands." It was an unwritten "red line."

Although we all knew of the Palestinian prisons' revolving-door policy Adnan Yihye Mahmoud Jaber al-Gohl, who helped conceal the car used in the attack, and Nabil Sharihi, who helped prepare the bomb had been arrested and released by the Palestinians only to participate in more terror, I thought Israel's prisons would be harder to leave. I am no longer sure of that fact.

In a country famous for setting "red lines" when it comes to water shortages, the unity of Jerusalem or the need to retain the Jordan River Valley, I was surprised that the release of prisoners with blood on their hands had not achieved red-line status in official circles.

Maybe that is a good thing because we know that the red line for the Kinneret was lowered at least twice; that Ehud Barak offered shared sovereignty in Jerusalem; and we no longer hear about the security offered by maintaining an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.

The problem with red lines is they create embarrassment for those who cross them.

Because there is no red line on prisoner releases, there's no embarrassment when Israel releases a prisoner with blood on his hands, as we saw with the release of the so-called "refrigerator bomber" to a hero's welcome in Ramallah and his new role as an adviser to Yasser Arafat.

I do not often think about Alisa's killers now in prison. I would rather think of Alisa's smile, her laugh, and the way she could light up a room with her presence. But I fear for the day when her killers are set free.

So while I continue to pray for their continued imprisonment, I am sadly preparing myself for the day when Alisa's killers are released as another demonstration of Israel's determination to live in peace.

And while I will never forget the events and aftermath of April 9, 1995, I hope that one day God will give me the strength to forget Israel's crossing of an unwritten red line.

The writer lives in West Orange, New Jersey.

You can visit the Alisa Flatow Memorial page by Clicking Here



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