Right-wing MKs adamantly opposed releasing terrorists from prison before and
after Sunday’s government vote, with some joining demonstrations against the
move, while a number of opposition lawmakers expressed their support for the
“The government’s decision is an unparalleled disgrace,” Knesset
Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said. “Releasing
terrorists just to start negotiations is giving in to the Palestinian
Authority’s dictates for preconditions.”
Slomiansky added that he would
have expected the US, which is waging a war on terror, not to pressure Israel to
release terrorists when it refuses to release jailed Israeli spy Jonathan
Pollard, “who is not a terrorist and does not threaten America’s
Several Bayit Yehudi MKs participated in a rally against
releasing prisoners that was organized by My Israel, the NGO founded by party
leader Economy and Trade 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 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
MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) posited that his party should
leave the coalition if there is a prisoner release.
Speaking at the
demonstration, Chetboun 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.”
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
“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
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.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny
Danon called the prisoner release a prize for terror that damages Israel’s
“The loathsome terrorists will be considered celebrities by
Palestinian children, and will be sent from stage to stage.
will be displayed in the streets and the Palestinian leadership will celebrate
with the murderers all night and then negotiate with us in the morning,” Danon
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 said. “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.”
In the opposition, MK Eli Yishai
(Shas) spoke out against the prisoner release, saying that it should only be an
option when an Israeli captive’s life is in danger.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table cannot support preconditions, certainly
not releasing terrorists who will put dozens of Israelis under the threat of
terror,” Yishai said following the government vote.
“It is the
government’s duty to do all it can for its citizens’ security. An action that
will danger all Jewish people and can lead to more civilians and soldiers being
kidnapped just to bring an agreement to start talks is a dangerous mistake,” he
Other 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
“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 that he had to vote on releasing terrorists in the past, when he was
a minister, and that 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
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