Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to free 104 Palestinian convicts, responding to a Palestinian Authority pre-condition to reviving peace talks, while several ministers warned of unintended consequences from the decision and Israeli citizens demonstrated outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office to protest the move.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the move saying, “there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the country and this is one of those moments.”
“Today, we will authorize a ministerial team to determine the identity of the prisoners that will be released after the opening of the diplomatic process and in keeping with its progress. The team under my leadership will include Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Science, Technology and Space Minister – and former ISA Director – Yaakov Peri,” Netanyahu continued.
“This moment is not easy for me. It is not easy for the ministers. It is not easy especially for the families, the bereaved families, whose heart I understand. But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the country and this is one of those moments,” Netanyahu concluded.
As the prime minister was making his remarks, dozens of protesters, many whose relatives were killed at the hands of Palestinian terrorists now in prison, and who may now be released, demonstrated to show their disapproval of the plan.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, “Unfortunately, the decision today will bring to a situation where it is possible for the day to arrive when the killers of the Fogel family will be released,” according to Israel’s Channel 2.
In March 2011, two teenage cousins from a nearby Arab village scaled the security fence surrounding the town of Itamar located in the West Bank. They crawled through the window of the Fogel home and, once inside, brutally murdered parents Udi and Ruth, 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and 3-month-old Hadas.
“We go down a slippery slope,” Bennett said. “Once we released one terrorist for one live soldier, then hundreds of terrorists in exchange for one live soldier, then dead terrorists in exchange for a soldier, and now a hundred terrorists in exchange for a ‘process’. We show the world that here everything is negotiable.”
Bennett wondered out loud why the government would free prisoners now after similar moves in the past have led to waves of terror: ”They talk about how the process will bring peace. The reality is the opposite. Oslo brought suicide bombings in 94′-95 ‘, Camp David brought over a thousand deaths.”
The situation is because of the “two states” paradigm, Bennett said. “This is the heart of the problem. This concept is fundamentally wrong, we need to change it. I also call on everyone to stop saying: ‘If a Palestinian state is not established, that will be the end of Israel.’ Israel will prosper even without a Palestinian state.”