ahmed tibi solemn 298.
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
Knesset members from across the political spectrum responded to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's closing remarks at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit, in which he stated Israel's intention to release 250 Fatah prisoners as a gesture of goodwill towards PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"This is a small step in the right direction. We must bring about the release of more prisoners and the removal of checkpoints in the West bank," MK Ahmed Tibi of the United Arab List said. Tibi added that he supported Olmert's statement, and that the time had come to respond to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's cries for a resumption of negotiations with a consensual timeline.
Meretz Chairman, MK Yossi Beilin also backed the prime minister's statements, saying that the address was "a brave speech, important, and it may cause a breakthrough- but only if Olmert will be prepared to walk along the path that he has been laying down for a while but which he has been unwilling, for whatever reason, to tread upon."
Beilin called upon Olmert to begin negotiations on core issues forthwith. "We must take advantage of the opportunity that has been created and arrive at a settlement that will strengthen Mahmoud Abbas and cause the Arab world to normalize relations with Israel."
MK Taleb A-Sanaa, on the other hand, was a bit more circumspect: "I hope that Israel will release prisoners of substance and not only criminal convicts, because if they [release only convicts] it will place Abbas in an embarrassing situation and will weaken him. It will portray him as if Prime Minister Ehud were taking advantage of him and promoting public relations and propaganda for Israeli interests at his expense."
Likud faction chairman MK Gideon Sa'ar was vehement in his response to Olmert's declaration, saying that "Olmert's statement of his intention to release 250 prisoners without recompense will not promote a brighter future but rather the exact opposite; it will bring about a further weakening of Israel and a resurgence in terrorism, which will target Israel and its citizens.
MK Zvi Hendel of NU\NRP said that "Olmert continues to gallop at breakneck speed towards the precipice of a destroyed path and the annihilation of Israel's might. If the prisoners who are to be released were imprisoned subsequent to the Oslo accords then what has changed? Hendel asked, and answered that "Then too we said that Fatah was peace-loving and that we should caress them and hug them, and yet they committed crimes against the citizens of Israel. Every minute that goes by with this man (Olmert) still in power intensifies the danger to Israel."
MK Arye Eldad, another member of Hendel's party, said that "Irrespective of the practical failure of the Sharm summit for furthering peace in the Middle East, Olmert was forced into the Pavlovian response of releasing prisoners and rewarding terror."