The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday a bill that would allow Israel’s security forces to rearrest terrorists released in the framework of Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchanges.
If the bill passes in the Knesset, released prisoners will no longer receive a full pardon from Israel’s president as part of the exchange, but would be released on a conditional basis by a cabinet decision. Their original conviction would thus remain outstanding, allowing the government to rearrest them if they violate even minor conditions placed on their release.
It would also enable the government to rearrest released prisoners if their organization, or another group altogether, carries out a terror attack or kidnapping.
The bill was proposed by Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, one of many lawmakers who have harshly criticized Israel’s willingness to release hundreds of convicted terrorists in exchange for a single Israeli captive.
In 2011, Israel released over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of them convicted of murder, in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Many Israeli leaders, including, most recently, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, have argued that such deals incentivize the continued kidnapping of Israelis.
On June 12, three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gil-ad Shaar, were kidnapped and murdered by a Hamas-affiliated cell in the southern West Bank. Many Israeli leaders tied the murders to previous prisoner releases.
“It’s time to flip the equation,” Elkin said Sunday, “and to clarify to terror groups that kidnappings will result in more terrorists being imprisoned, not released.”
The bill would “empower the government to return terrorists to prison as soon as the conditions of the exchange are changed (they return to terrorism, another Israeli is kidnapped, etc.),” Elkin added in a statement. “This is a good start to changing the rules of the game with terror organizations, and I intend to advance this legislation as quickly as possible in the Knesset.”
The draft version of the bill contains an article applying the new conditions for release retroactively to prisoners already freed in previous exchanges, but it’s unclear that this stipulation will survive the legislative process as it may require changing semi-constitutional basic laws related to the president’s pardon powers.
The bill is considered likely to pass into law in the coming weeks. The ministerial committee’s support ensures that it will be proposed as a government bill enjoying support from the coalition’s parliamentary majority.
It already has the signatures of MKs from across the political spectrum, including the chairs of relevant committees, such as Law Committee Chair David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) and several senior members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Signatories include Likud’s Yariv Levin, Labor’s Eitan Cabel, Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked, Orit Strock and Moti Yogev, Hatnua’s Amram Mitzna, Elazar Stern and David Tzur, Yesh Atid’s Aliza Lavie and Ronen Hoffman, Yisrael Beytenu’s Robert Ilatov and Rotem, Shas’s Ariel Atias and UTJ’s Moshe Gafni.