Jewish Home MKs denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday for his decision to postpone a cabinet vote on a bill that would effectively bar the release of Palestinian prisoners serving life imprisonment sentences without parole.
“Netanyahu is a world champion in releasing murderers,” an unnamed Jewish Home MK told Israel Radio.
The vote, which was originally slated for Sunday afternoon, was rescheduled for next week. Netanyahu did not provide an explanation as to why the vote was deferred.
The proposed legislation — sponsored by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Yariv Levin (Likud), David Tzur (Hatnua) and others — had been expected to pass in the cabinet vote, despite opposition from various Knesset members.
If passed, the measure would prevent leaders from being able to offer prisoner releases in exchange for political concessions in talks with Palestinians, although it would only apply to a minority of jailed terrorists.
“It’s amazing how many bumps and hurdles one has to endure to pass such a necessary and moral law,” Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, a vocal proponent of the bill, wrote on his Facebook page Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, he took to the same medium to encourage ministers to support the move.
“The goal is to restore deterrence and sanity to the State of Israel, which has grown accustomed to [the policy of] ‘releasing terrorists,’” he wrote.
The ministerial committee for legislation approved the bill on May 11 — a decision which was promptly appealed by Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri.
“The proposal seeks to allow the court to completely tie the government’s hands” and compromises its authority with regard to political considerations, he argued.
The release of convicted murderers became one of the most divisive issues within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition over the past year after he agreed to release over 100 prisoners at the outset of the most recent round of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Nearly 80 prisoners were released over the nine months of negotiations with the Palestinians, including many who had murdered Israelis in attacks over 20 years ago. Numerous right-wing ministers and MKs threatened to quit their posts and withdraw their party from the government ahead of a slated fourth and final prisoner release, which Palestinians were demanding include Israeli-Arab terrorists.
Netanyhau relented to the pressure and delayed the final round indefinitely, demanding that the Palestinians first agree to extend the peace talks past the end of April deadline.
The talks eventually broke down completely after a series of unilateral moves by both sides that culminated in a unity deal between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organization and refuses to negotiate with.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.