Bills pressuring Hamas to release Schalit remain stalled

Soldier’s grandfather asks MKs to remove family name from legislation.

Gilad Schalit 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
MKs who drafted bills to pressure Hamas to release captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit met Monday to try to further their legislation, and were told that Schalit’s grandfather, Tzvi, asked MKs to remove his grandson’s name from the popular legislation.
In the course of the Interior Committee meeting to debate the bills, Committee Chairman David Azoulai (Shas) blasted the government for its unclear stance on the legislation.
On Monday morning, prior to the meeting, the elder Schalit contacted one of the bills’ sponsors, MK Danny Danon (Likud), to ask that the name of the bill be changed, and that the bills only take effect after Schalit’s release is secured.
The bills, which propose to severely restrict the conditions of Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails to the minimum legal standard, passed their preliminary readings 10 months ago. Sponsored by Danon, Marina Solodkin (Kadima), Aryeh Eldad (National Union), Yariv Levin (Likud) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima), the bills enjoyed wide support among opposition and coalition MKs – but was met with reluctance by the government.
In May 2010, a deal was reached that the government would support the bills on the condition that they be advanced to further readings only “in concert and consultation” with the government, and with the Internal Security and Justice Ministries.
Since then, the government has worked to delay hearings on the legislation, according to Interior Committee Chairman David Azoulai (Shas).
“I am surprised by the fact that the government gave approval to advance the bill through its preliminarily reading, but is now working both with me and with the bill’s sponsors to delay it,” complained Azoulai. “The government’s behavior is unacceptable. It must make a bold decision as to whether it supports the bill or does not – but unfortunately, it does not do so.”
“The government’s policy regarding the law to prevent family visits for jailed Hamas prisoners – as long as Schalit is being held – testifies mostly to hesitation and fear,” complained Eldad. “For five years, we have been told that the topic should be addressed ‘quietly.’ That’s what they have said for 25 years regarding [Jonathan] Pollard. In the final results, the government has failed.
“In order not to raise public fury, the government agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading, but prevents it from advancing,” he continued.
“The government cannot, of course, surrender to Hamas’s demands – but it also refrains from applying pressure on Hamas.”
Azoulai turned to Government Secretary Tzvi Hauser to coordinate among the various relevant ministries to come up with a clear government position on the legislation by the opening of the Knesset’s Summer Session, scheduled for May.
If the government fails to reach an understanding by that time, Azoulai threatened that the committee will begin work on the bill, with or without, a government opinion.
During the Monday meeting, MKs agreed that the various bills would be unified into one coherent piece of legislation.