Ministers: We voted according to our conscience

Shas minister Eli Yishai says deal justified even if troops are dead; says past deals were more costly.

Yishai 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yishai 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sunday's cabinet decision to agree to the terms of a deal with Hizbullah for the release of captive reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev met mixed reactions in the Knesset, with some MKs urging ministers to refuse the deal until the last minute. "The global precedent of releasing terrorist murders from jail has serious implications," MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, warned on Sunday morning, shortly before the ministers gathered for the fateful marathon meeting. Steinitz was not alone in his opposition to the deal. "With all of the pain involved, this deal should not be approved," said MK Uri Ariel (NU/NRP), adding that "live terrorists should only be released in exchange for live soldiers. The government must determine a better policy that does not strategically endanger Israel's future." But even within Ariel's own party, MKs held differing opinions regarding the cabinet vote. The head of the Knesset "Caucus to Return the Hostage Soldiers" and the chairman of the NU/NRP's Knesset faction, MK Zevulun Orlev, greeted the news of the cabinet decision with open arms. "The approval of the deal transmits an important message, that every Jewish mother will know that the State of Israel will never abandon its soldiers," said Orlev, minutes after the decision was announced. "Even if the government failed in its management and even if there were justified and weighty reasons to oppose the deal, now, once the decision has been made, we must line up behind it, put aside all of the arguments and embrace the families of the hostages." Kadima MK Otniel Schneller also welcomed the decision. "Sometimes, the public will and the national restraint are more important and stronger than the diplomatic or security interest," he said.