Economy Minister Naftali Bennett turned to Israel's Arab population in a letter he released Sunday, explaining his Bayit Yehudi party's opposition to the release of Israeli-Arab terrorists. Bennett emphasized why such a release would be unfavorable to the Israeli-Arab sector's position in Israeli society.
In the letter, Bennett said that the release of murderers was unjustified because it would encourage terror and because of the heinous nature of their crimes. For the Arab Israeli population, Bennett said the release would undermine the sector's demands for equality and full rights in Israeli society.
"In this letter, I turn to you, Israeli Arab citizens, in order to explain the reasons for our opposition to the release of Israeli citizens."
Bennett wrote that the prisoner release was especially significant for Israeli Arabs because it touched on the sensitive issue of the sector's connection to the state of Israel.
"Releasing the Arab Israeli prisoners would turn you ostensibly into second class citizens. The release harms first and foremost your interests," the Bayit Yehudi leader wrote.
"A deal in which the head of the Palestinian Authority [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] demands the release of Israeli-Arabs from prison, would be a disgrace for Israeli Arabs that is not justified."
"This kind of deal undermines your demands for justice, equality and full rights," Bennett wrote in the letter, explaining, "Because if Abu Mazen (Abbas) takes care of this issue, the citizens of Israel will tell you that he should take care of everything for you."
The Bayit Yehudi faction convened on Friday and decided to back Bennett's statement from Thursday in which he said he would remove his party from the government coalition if Israeli Arabs were released.
On Thursday Bennett said that if the deal includes murderers with Israeli citizenship, it would violate Israeli sovereignty. “Bayit Yehudi would oppose such a deal in the cabinet, and if it passes, the party would leave the government,” he said
Bennett said Thursday his party could not tolerate surrendering to Palestinian extortion. Noting the upcoming Passover holiday, he said the Jews were now free and had a legal system to protect them from terrorists.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.