Rivlin: Knesset should play minimal role in Schalit deal

Knesset Speaker says no need for vote on prisoner exchange; "we're not releasing terrorists; we're releasing Gilad Schalit," he says.

October 14, 2011 13:55
2 minute read.
Reuven Rivlin at EU Parliament

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin 311. (photo credit: Gabi Farkash)


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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin predicted on Friday that captive soldier Gilad Schalit’s release will be followed by a flood of related legislation.

At the same time, he backed the government’s decision not to bring the deal to release captive soldier Gilad Schalit to a vote in the Knesset.

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Gilad Schalit expected back in Israel on Tuesday
Timeline of the proposed prisoner exchange

“Nobody can remain indifferent to this news,” Rivlin said.

He explained that most of the Knesset’s factions, including Likud, Kadima, Shas, Labor, Habayit Hayehudi and Independence, said they favored the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit. Therefore, Rivlin said, “there is no need for a formal act of approval.”

At the same time, immediately after the deal went public, Rivlin announced that he would be willing to convene the Knesset during Succot, should the government decide to put it to a vote. He said that the haredi parties had agreed that the mitzva of redeeming captives was reason enough to work during the holiday’s intermediary days.

Rivlin said that “Israel has an unwritten constitution – but even according to the accepted norms, it is not necessary for the Knesset to vote on releasing terrorists.”

“The Knesset must supervise the government, and may only replace it in extraordinary circumstances, like peace treaties or land swaps,” he added.

According to Rivlin, the Knesset was likely to play more of a role after Schalit is released.

The matter will be discussed during the Knesset meeting, scheduled to take place after Succot, even though its planned topic is the government’s reactions to the summer’s social protests.

Once the Knesset’s winter session begins at the end of this month, Rivlin predicted that MKs will attempt to pass bills related to prisoner exchanges. In his opinion, the best option would be to wait for a serious investigation and report on Schalit’s release before drafting laws.

“Knesset members may legislate against negotiations or releasing terrorists, in an attempt to limit the government,” the Knesset Speaker said. “There is no place for such laws, because they will not stand when there is public pressure. The government will not be able to follow them.”

Rivlin also spoke out against the possibility of legalizing the death penalty for terrorists, saying that “the world will reject it and put pressure on us.”

“This isn’t just a question of whether a law will be controversial,” he said. “We must also examine bills’ effectiveness.”

The Speaker was reluctant to express his own opinions on the matter, saying: “Everything depends on circumstances. We’re not releasing terrorists; we’re releasing Gilad Schalit, who is like a microcosm of Israeli society.”

“I’m a rightist, but I’m not stupid,” Rivlin said. “I believe Israel should have sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel, but we need to do so by showing the world that we are a democracy.”

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