The cabinet on Sunday voted to approve negotiations with the
Palestinians including the release of 104 Palestinian terrorists in
stages over the next nine months as part of diplomatic negotiations.
The measure passed at the end of a nearly six hour cabinet meeting by the vote of 13-7, with two abstentions.
ministers voting against included Likud ministers Gilad Erdan and
Yisrael Katz, Yisrael Beytenu ministers Yair Shamir and Uzi Landau, and
Bayit Yehudi ministers Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel and Uri Orbach. Likud
ministers Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat abstained.
voted for the proposal were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Yuval
Steinitz, Moshe Ya'alon and Gideon Sa'ar from the Likud, Sofa Landver
and Yitzhak Aharonovitch from Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid,
Yael German, Yaakov Peri, Shai Piron, Meir Cohen, and Hatnua's Tzipi
Livni, and Amir Peretz.
"This moment is not easy for me, for
the ministers, and especially not for the bereaved families, whom I
understand very well," Netanyahu said during the cabinet meeting. "But
there are times when difficult decisions must be made for the good of
the state, and this is one of those times."
The cabinet on
Sunday also approved the draft of a bill mandating a national referendum
if an accord with the Palestinians is reached that necessitates
withdrawals from part of Jerusalem or land swaps. The bill will be
brought to the Knesset for a vote on Wednesday.
if it is achieved in negotiations, will be brought as a referendum. It
is important that every citizen will directly vote on fateful decisions
like these that determine the future of the state," Netanyahu said during the meting.
The only two ministers
to oppose the bill were Livni and Peretz.
which is to be a basic law, will essentially say that any change in the
status of territories where Israeli law applies will have to be brought
before the country in the form of a referendum after the move passes the
government and the Knesset.
The bill does not, however, call for
a referendum on an agreement that calls for the transfer of any parts
of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, although there is some talk
now of perhaps legislating a bill to that regard as well.
the bill the cabinet approved Sunday, for instance, the disengagement
from Gaza would not have had to come before the country for approval,
nor would any future decision to uproot settlements in the West Bank as
part of an accord that did not include altering the status of Jerusalem
or involve any "land swap".
The vote on the release of 104
Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of renewed peace talks
was delayed for several hours on Sunday morning as Netanyahu sought to
secure enough support for the move, in the face of internal pressure
from within his own Likud party.
In an attempt to neutralize the
strong opposition within his party, Netanyahu made a distinction
between Israeli Arab prisoners and other prisoners, saying a decision to
release the former would be made separately and brought to an
At the opening of the cabinet meeting the prime
minister said that this was a tough day for him and for the families of
victims killed by the terrorists on the list of prisoners intended for
release. Despite that, he said, repeating the statement he made in an open letter to the citizens of Israel on Saturday, difficult decisions must be made "for the good of the nation."
prime minister also said that a committee to be made up of himself,
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, and Science and Technology
Minister Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet head, will be established to
determine which prisoners will released, and when.