The kidnapping of three teenagers on the way home from yeshiva in Gush Etzion has not weakened the resolve of politicians who oppose releasing Palestinian terrorists.
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said on Sunday that her bill limiting presidential pardons to murderers and terrorists, which passed a preliminary Knesset reading last week, is more relevant than ever.
Shaked suggested that her and Hatnua MK David Tsur’s proposal, which would give courts the option of sentencing a murderer or terrorist to life in prison without the option of a pardon, will prevent mass murderers from being freed in future prisoner exchange deals or diplomatic negotiations.
“Releasing murderers pours fuel on the fire of terror and will encourage more and more kidnapping. The time has come to make a change,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
According to Shaked, murderers need to die in prison and not be freed, and every terrorist organization should know that.
“This is a moral, appropriate bill,” she said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decided that his party would vote against all prisoner releases in the future.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader gave his ministers freedom to choose as they voted on prisoner releases in recent years – being divided between votes for, against and abstentions.
“The fact that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] puts Palestinian prisoners as his top priority is a clear sign. One of the operative conclusions we reached is that, at least as far as it depends on me, there will not be any more releases of Palestinian terrorists who are in prison – not as a gesture and not in any other way,” Liberman, who is on a state visit to the Ivory Coast, told Army Radio.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau said that, just as he voted against releasing terrorists to free former captive soldier Gilad Schalit, he will oppose such a deal if it becomes relevant again.
“It is absolutely forbidden to release terrorists for Israeli captives, because it leads to a new round of kidnappings and harms the security of Israeli citizens,” he said.
Landau called for an “iron hand” to be used against Hamas terrorists, as opposed to “giving prizes to those who abduct and harm Israeli citizens.”
Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, whose cooling-off period before he can enter politics ended in May, said prisoner releases bring more kidnappings.
Diskin tweeted: “I was asked if, as a father of seven, would I free terrorists? “I say this with a heavy heart. I wouldn’t. Three of my children are serving in combat units in the IDF, and still I say I wouldn’t.”
Diskin added: “A country cannot be run under blackmail from a terrorist organization. It encourages future kidnappings and there is a basketful of evidence for that.”
Meanwhile, MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) updated a bill he proposed with strict guidelines for prisoner exchanges to apply to all prisoners, not just soldiers.
Stern said he has repeatedly called for the government to publicize the recommendations of the Shamgar Commission and set criteria for prisoner exchanges.
The Commission was founded by then-defense minister Ehud Barak in July 2008 after the bodies of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to Israel in exchange for terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah fighters and the bodies of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinians.
The panel, led by former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, is thought to have advised against mass swaps for abducted soldiers – like in October 2011 when 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were traded for Schalit.
The Hatnua MK’s bill would limit prisoner exchanges to one terrorist per one captive Israeli. In addition, living terrorists cannot be exchanged for dead bodies.
The government can release up to 10 terrorists in the process of negotiations, if it believes it will bring a successful exchange.
In the case of a kidnapping, prison conditions of terrorists from the organization that captured Israelis will be worsened within 72 hours of the incident.
“This bill has two central advantages,” Stern said. “One is reducing the ‘profitability’ of kidnapping for terrorist organizations.
The second is reducing internal public pressure during negotiations in such events.”
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said that terrorists should be released in exchange for the boys, if necessary.
“Of course we are all praying that the three captives will be brought back home whole and healthy, and we would prefer to do it without negotiating with terrorists,” she said after a visit with the family of Gil-Ad Shaer.
“In my view, we must do everything possible to bring them home. That is part of the Israeli ethos – we take care of our sons, and that does not weaken us, it strengthens us and increases our solidarity.”
When asked in a Channel 2 interview whether he told the captives’ families he would vote against releasing terrorists in exchange for their return, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said “my stance is known,” meaning that he opposes such a trade.
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