The High Court of Justice rejected a petition late Tuesday night by the Almagor
Terror Victims Association to block the second round of Palestinian prisoner
releases scheduled for the same night as part of the ongoing Israeli-
Palestinian peace talks.
According to the terms for entering talks,
Israel would release four rounds of Palestinian prisoners over nine months as a
confidence-building measure for Palestinian participation in the
Tuesday’s decision came at lightning speed, with the petition
itself being filed only Tuesday afternoon, followed by a rushed hearing by a
panel of three justices presided over by Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam
The court said that the issue of releasing prisoners is “a
sensitive and complex one which stands at the heart of a public
However, the court emphasized that the question before the
High Court was “only limited to the legal question: Are there grounds to
intervene in the prisoner release taking place in the framework of the peace
process?” The court said that at the hearing, it “heard from the niece of
[murdered] soldier Moshe Tamam, who spoke with obvious pain and emotion against
the prisoner release.”
However, it noted that the murderers of Tamam, who
were Arab-Israelis, are not among the 26 prisoners listed as part of the current
round of releases.
The petitioners also claimed that some of the
prisoners due to be released violated the government’s own standards and were
due to be released in error, as they had committed their crimes post-Oslo. One
of the principles of the current prisoner release has been to release only
prisoners whose crimes were committed pre-Oslo.
The state responded that
the defining date for the government’s determination was not the 1993 signing of
the Declaration of Principles which started the ball rolling on Oslo, but a 1994
agreement which formalized the 1993 framework, and that all of the crimes came
before the 1994 signing.
The petitioners also claimed that the first
round of prisoner releases was responsible for a recent uptick in terror
emanating from the West Bank, and argued for a delay of the release until the
issue could be further scrutinized.
The state responded that security
issues and commitments to the US required the release to go forward Tuesday
night as planned.
Earlier in the day, ahead of the court’s ruling, Meir
Indor, the head of Almagor, told reporters: “We are soldiers without weapons,
with papers, against terrorism, against a victory for terrorism.”
fighters for peace,” he continued. “If the murderers are out, there will not be
Henry Rome contributed to this report.