The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected the petition of the Almagor Terror
Victims Association to intervene and block the government’s decision to release
26 Palestinian prisoners, including some of the worst terrorists with “blood on
The court’s decision, following a heated but affirmative
vote by the government last week, removed the final barrier for pardoning the
prisoners and releasing them.
At the outset of its opinion, the court
said that it understood that the issues are “sensitive and complicated, lying at
the heart of a public dispute.”
“Despite this,” the decision continued,
“all that is before us is the legal question of whether there is any basis to
get involved in the government’s decision to release prisoners in the framework
of peace talks with the Palestinians.”
The court rejected the central
argument of Almagor that this release specifically was more unreasonable than
prior releases because terrorists with blood on their hands were being released
as part of a general process and without even receiving any Israelis in return,
such as during the Gilad Schalit deal.
According to the court, these
distinctions were not significant enough for it to violate the cardinal
principle that it does not get involved in matters of state, and a prisoner
release in the framework of peace talks was emphatically a matter of
Next, the court disposed of Almagor’s argument that the current
policy of giving the families the final list of prisoners planned to be released
only 48 hours before violated their rights under a law granting families of
victims to submit opposition in writing to a planned pardon of whoever harmed
their family member.
The court said that this law applies only to
individual prisoners being pardoned for reasons specific to that prisoner, and
was not applicable at all to a general pardon being granted to a group of
prisoners in the context of a state-sponsored peace process.
also cited the state’s argument that it had gone above and beyond its
obligations by giving Almagor information about all of the prisoners, even
though the current policy of giving the families of victims details about
prisoners being released 48 hours before does not apply to West Bank prisoners,
only to those in Israeli prisons.
Multiple times the court noted that the
first round – 26 prisoners out of 104 due to be released in four segments over
nine months – included only Palestinians and not Israeli- Arabs, who reportedly
will be in later releases.
It was unclear if the court noted this as a
potential stronger argument for Almagor in the future or merely to describe the
prisoners being immediately released.
The court concluded its opinion,
stating that “our hearts go out to the families of the terror victims, whose
anguish is greatest and about which we can do nothing to heal.”
prisoners who have committed such grave crimes is “the hardest kind of
decision,” said the court.
It added that “we are sure that the empowered
authorities decided what they decided with a heavy heart, while considering the
pain and position of the victims’ families.”
The court also accepted and
quoted the state’s argument that the deal was balanced and well conceived, since
if the peace process did not go well, future planned prisoner releases will be
The justices made no reference or response to the angry jeers
and shouts from the victims’ families that followed them as they hustled out of
the court room on Sunday.
Almagor responded angrily to the High Court
decision, saying that “the bereaved families see this as proof that the prime
minister’s immoral politics have penetrated the halls of the court.”
Supreme Court today closed the door before bereaved families and Jewish victims
of terror – something it has not done to Palestinians,” Almagor stated, listing
the suspension of the building the security barrier and acquiescence to requests
to stop certain interrogation and arrest procedures as examples of the court’s
bending to the will of the Palestinians.
Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun,
who participated in protests against freeing terrorists, said he finds it
unfortunate that bereaved families are almost alone in their fight against the
prisoner release, calling the situation a “moral failure.”
and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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