Members of government are at loggerheads ahead of the release of a second wave of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, which was put in place as part of preconditions for peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Yedioth Ahronoth compares the atmosphere in Israel to that “of the days before [prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin’s assassination.”
Jerusalem is set to release another 25 prisoners this week as part of the trust-building measures agreed to before peace talks kicked off in July. The paper reports that the hard-right Jewish Home party published an official statement blaming fellow coalition member Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, saying, “The release of terrorists for the dubious right of Tzipi Livni to meet with [Palestinian negotiator Saeb] Erekat is very grave.” Livni’s camp snapped back, calling the party’s statement “wild incitement.”
Israel Hayom reports that Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett is pushing a bill barring the release of convicted terrorists in a bid to halt future mass releases like the one scheduled for this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the bill on the grounds that it limits political officials, the paper writes, and notes that the bill’s approval in committee hangs on Likud votes.
According to the text of the bill, put forward by MK Orit Strock (Jewish Home), “The decision to release terrorists made by the government as part of what’s termed a ‘diplomatic gesture’ has completely stripped the president’s prerogative to employ his personal discretion in granting amnesty to each of the terrorists in question.”
The paper runs an op-ed by Yossi Tzur, a father of a terror victim, in which he rails against the government for “insisting on continuing to be the only [government] in the world releasing convicted murderers.”
“Insensitivity and record-breaking disregard, their apathy kills us, and no one cares,” he writes. He calls Israel’s release of an Arab Israeli convicted of murder, after he cried discrimination because Hamas and Fatah terrorists were released but he wasn’t, “the theater of the absurd.”
To “balance” the approval of the release of terrorists, Netanyahu plans to announce the approval of 1,700 construction permits in the West Bank, Maariv reports. It says that some Likud ministers are being pressured from within their party and without to oppose the release of the prisoners, even though they’re expected to vote in favor of the move. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon wrote to his fellow Likud ministers, calling on them to oppose the move.
“It’s an irresponsible step that endangers the security of Israeli citizens,” Danon is quoted by Maariv saying. “Unconditionally releasing prisoners constitutes an award to terror and spurs on future terrorists.”
The paper runs a column by Amir Rapoport, who notes that the security establishment detected “an atmosphere of terrorism” in the West Bank ahead of the prisoner release on account of several recent attacks on Israelis. Nonetheless, “the Palestinian Authority is not interested in a wave of terror at this time, and Hamas, which is stuck in a crisis in the Gaza Strip, cannot succeed in inflaming the West Bank from there,” he writes. While the Israelis don’t “smell an intifada” coming in the short term, the coming months are worrying, he says.
Haaretz criticizes the slated tit-for-tat settlement construction in its editorial, asking, “Why should a confidence-building measure whose purpose is to facilitate the negotiations with the Palestinians require an immediate and dangerous counter-operation that could jeopardize the talks?”
“One can disagree with the decision to release prisoners, one can oppose it or take legal action to prevent the move,” Haaretz’s writes, “but there is an enormous gap between a decision that cannot affect the outcome of the negotiations and building homes whose sole purpose is to buttress the fortifications against a withdrawal from the territories.”
“The prime minister would do well to recognize that the peace talks are with the Palestinians, not the settlers,” it concludes.
The paper has no interest in reporting on these proceedings, and instead reports on German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s letter to Netanyahu saying that boycotting a UN Human Rights Council review will only work to Israel’s detriment.
“If Israeli representatives fail to report for Tuesday’s review, it will be the first state to boycott the review process. As a result, Israel is likely to suffer harsh international criticism and be considered responsible for creating a precedent which will release states such as Iran, Syria and North Korea from attending future hearings on the matter,” the paper writes.
According to the paper, Westerwelle “acknowledged Israel’s difficult position in the HRC and emphasized Germany’s efforts to keep Israel from being unjust discrimination in its deliberations. At the same time, he warned, Israel needs to attend the hearing or there will be serious consequences.”
Yedioth Ahronoth runs a Sydney Morning Herald story about six Jews in one of the port city’s suburbs being attacked by assailants described as “not Australian looking.” Among those attacked and called “bloody Jews” was a Jewish National Fund emissary, Shlomo Ben Haim. The 66-year-old man injured in the attack was in serious condition in a local hospital after being thrown on the ground and repeatedly kicked by the attackers.