President Shimon Peres on Monday morning said that everything related to the pardons of prisoners in the exchange deal for Gilad Schalit would be completed on time.
The High Court of Justice ruled on Sunday that it will hear a petition at noon on Monday against the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners involved in the exchange deal to release Schalit. The first group of 477 prisoners, whose names were published Sunday, are expected to be released on Tuesday at the same time that Hamas hands over Schalit. The list includes 450 males and 27 females.
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"Today is a very special day," Peres told reporters congregated in his succa in the presidential residence.
"These are not only long days, but very sensitive days," said Peres. "We're all very excited, this is a one time event with a lot of hope, but a lot of trepidation," he added.
"Israel has confronted many problems, but also has enjoyed many
successes," said Peres, referring specifically to the difficulty in
locating Schalit's place of captivity.
"I'm always surprised that we have committees of inquiry regarding our
problems," said Peres, "but no one has ever commissioned a committee of
inquiry to investigate our successes. It's time that we did," he
stated, "so that we can achieve a greater perspective balance when
looking at our history."
Staff members in the legal department of the president's bureau have been
burning the midnight oil to process some 200 files of Palestinian
prisoners, convicted on various charges of terrorism, who are to receive
pardons in exchange for Schalit.
According to the president’s spokeswoman, Ayelet Frish, the legal
department worked through the night on Sunday and all day and night
Monday to prepare the necessary paperwork.
Frish said that in effect, the prisoners are not being pardoned. Instead their sentences are being commuted.
In fact, Peres has decided to attach a statement to each commutation
that he signs declaring that he neither forgets nor forgives, but that
the sentence has been commuted for a specific reason.
Peres has insisted that each document that the legal department prepares
for his signature be accompanied by details of the crime committed and
the sentence handed down.
Peres will sign the commutations for prisoners from Gaza and from within
Israel, while the head of Central Command will sign the commutations
for prisoners from Judea and Samaria.
He is due to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just prior to
the exchange. The documents will not be made available to the prisoners
until it is known for a fact that Gilad Schalit is no longer in Gaza.
Reporters who came to the president's succa were prepared for protests against the release of more than a thousand terrorists in exchange for Schalit. They did not expect a protest demonstration for social justice.
No one protested the Schalit deal, but Black Panthers veteran Reuven Abergil and a handful of followers who were seated near the front, stood up in the middle of the president's address waving banners and calling for social justice and public housing. They were immediately taken out by security guards.
Voices in the crowd called out that this was neither the time nor the place for such protest.
Peres himself said that they have a right to express their pain.
In his address to the hundreds of people who visited his succa , Peres paid tribute to Netanyahu for making the decision to release Schalit and to the government for accepting the collective responsibility to bring the captive soldier home in the prisoner exchange deal reached with Hamas.
He also praised the Schalit family for facing every obstacle with unshakable determination.
"The safety of each soldier is no less important than the safety of the nation as a whole, and the anguish of a family who lost loved ones to terrorism is also the anguish of the nation," Peres said.Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report