Bayit Yehudi MKs at protest against prisoner release 370.
(photo credit: Tal Benesh/Bayit Yehudi)
Right-wing MKs adamantly opposed releasing terrorists from prison before and after Sunday's government vote, with some joining demonstrations against the move, while some on the left expressed support.
Several Bayit Yehudi MKs participated in a rally meeting against releasing prisoners outside the government vote, which was organized by "My Israel," the NGO founded by party leader Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked before they ran for the Knesset.
"The prime minister wasn't elected to make difficult decisions; he was elected to make the right decisions," Shaked said at the demonstration. "The government forgot why we are here and how to stay here. It started with giving in to terror in the Schalit deal and continues with surrendering to the Americans – for what?"
Shaked pointed out that the US refuses to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, even though he did not kill anyone.
"America is a strong country that knows how to stand up for its interests, but when America demands that we release murderers that killed children, and soldiers and elderly people and mothers, we're stupid, give in to terror and to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," she added.
MK Yoni Shetboun (Bayit Yehudi) posited that his party should leave the coalition if there is a prisoner release.
Speaking at the demonstration, Shetboun said "the Bayit Yehudi doesn't belong in an Israeli government that releases terrorists with blood on their hands. That would be giving in to terror and turning our backs on bereaved families."
"A government that ignores its values so quickly just to enter negotiations will not think twice before uprooting settlements," he added.
Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev also participated in the rally, calling it immoral and bad for security to release murderers.
"Would the government also release murderers and rapists in the heart of Tel Aviv? Did the US ever release murderers to give in to terror?" Yogev asked.
Some Likud MKs also came out against the prisoner release.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin said that he is "resolutely opposed" to releasing prisoners with blood on their hands.
"My ideology doesn't change according to my job," Elkin stated. "I was one of the few people who dared to openly oppose the Schalit deal, because I thought the mass release of terrorists only encourages terror and increases our enemies' self-confidence."
Elkin referred to Netanyahu's former opposition to releasing terrorists, which the prime minister described in his 1993 book A Place Among the Nations
"I still find that Netanyahu more convincing than the Netanyahu from this morning," Elkin said. "But even more than that, I'm disappointed by the stance of our American allies and the West who adopt this twisted idea and see releasing murderers as something that promotes peace, and building a kindergarten as destroying peace. We can't agree with this thought or even understand it."
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu) called releasing prisoners a "sure death sentence for countless Israeli citizens."
"Releasing 104 ticking time bombs as a bribe to start negotiations or to build in Judea and Samaria is something that any moral person must rise up against," Feiglin stated. "I call on the ministers and MKs from all parties to tell the prime minister that they will do all they can to stop this decision."
Meanwhile, opposition MKs were more supportive of releasing terrorists, although they advised caution.
"This is a difficult and painful decision, first of all for bereaved families, but it will not harm the State of Israel's strength and will allow negotiations to begin," opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) explained.
According to Yacimovich, peace talks will strengthen Israel economically and strategically and bolster its security.
"Netanyahu must listen to most of the Israeli public and most of the Knesset that supports a diplomatic solution and stop following the extremists in his government," she added.
Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog said he had to vote on releasing terrorists in the past, when he was a minister, and it was a very difficult experience.
"Of course, our hearts are with the bereaved families that lost the most precious people in their lives," Herzog said. "At the same time, leaders need to make difficult decisions and in the current situation, there is no choice but to vote for continued negotiations."