Dual US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel is scheduled to fly from Cairo to Israel
Thursday afternoon in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners, after the High Court
of Justice refused two petitions against the deal late Wednesday
The High Court debated the two petitions on Wednesday afternoon
against the deal, but – as it did last week in the Gilad Schalit swap – denied
them on the grounds that these types of exchanges are within the government’s
purview. Grapel was arrested in Cairo on June 12 for allegedly spying for
Israel, a charge later lowered to incitement.
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The two Israelis who
negotiated Grapel’s release with the Egyptians – Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Kadima MK and former deputy Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) head Yisrael Hasson – are scheduled to fly Thursday
afternoon to Cairo with Grapel’s mother to retrieve him.
expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport at about 5 p.m., and then drive to
Jerusalem for a brief meeting with Netanyahu.
A spokesman for the Prisons
Service said the Egyptian prisoners, who were gathered together at the Beersheba
prison on Wednesday, will be taken to the Taba border crossing with Egypt most
likely Thursday afternoon.
All of the Egyptian prisoners, according to
information supplied by the Prisons Service, are serving time for criminal –
rather than terrorist-related – offenses. The group of prisoners also includes
While Schalit was met upon his release in a
government-organized ceremony at the Tel Nof Air Force Base – by his family,
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.
Benny Gantz – no official ceremony was planned for Grapel’s return.
One government source, explaining the difference in
the reception, said Grapel was not a soldier, but rather a civilian
unjustifiably accused of being a spy.
The official said it was not clear
whether Grapel, who was born in the US, but immigrated to Israel and served in
the Paratroopers Brigade, would remain here or return to the US. At the time of
his arrest in June he was a law student at Emory University in
The first petition to the High Court against the deal on
Wednesday was filed by MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and far-right
religious party Eretz Israel Shelanu (Our Land of Israel), and the second was
filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Association.
A panel of three
justices, Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut and Isaac Amit, heard the
Ben-Ari’s main argument was that the decision to release the
prisoners was problematic because it was made by Netanyahu’s 14- man security
cabinet, not by the government itself.
The National Union MK also dubbed
the prisoner release agreement “disproportionate and unreasonable,” and said it
differed from the Schalit deal because Grapel “went to Egypt of his own free
will to participate in various activities of extremist
However, Naor pointed out in response that the reasons Grapel
went to Egypt are unknown. In its response to the petition, the state
said the 10 security prisoners included in the deal had been convicted mostly of
weaponstrading offenses, and in one case of belonging to an illegal
“None of the prisoners has been convicted of perpetrating
acts of terror or acts to harm human life,” the state emphasized.
11 prisoners had been mostly convicted of drug-trafficking offenses and the
remaining four had served their prison sentences in full, the state
However, in Wednesday’s court hearing Ben-Ari argued that drug
trafficking was a serious offense and suggested that the state could have used
other means to free Grapel, including funding a lawyer to represent
The petitioners also argued the state had not given the public
enough time to respond to the prisoner releases.
However, Naor pointed
out during the hearing that the list of prisoners and their full details had
been published on the Prisons Service website on Tuesday, 48 hours before their
scheduled release on Thursday.
The state had also emphasized that
Israel’s relationship with Egypt was important, and the Grapel deal involved
“political considerations regarding our relationship with Egypt.”
final ruling, the justices noted the state’s position that it was important to
carry out the agreement between Israel and Egypt as scheduled, as any delay
could prevent Grapel’s release.
“This court has debated the issue of time
lines in the past, as we do not find that the time lines as set forth in this
case justify our intervention,” the justices said in the ruling.
Hartman contributed to this report.
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