Meir Indor –
When in the dead of night, the government released the list of murderers to be freed this week, we found it included five Arabs with Israeli IDs.
But what were they doing there? Hadn’t the government decided that a separate discussion would be held before the fourth release to determine what to do with Israeli-Arab terrorists—a discussion that had not yet taken place?
Our lawyer agreed that this was grounds for a new petition to the High Court of Justice, the institution that rebuffs us every time we petition against a release of terrorists: barring cabinet authorization for the five appointed ministers to include Israeli Arabs on their lists, they have no authority to release them. Such a thing would be contrary to good governance and would contradict the promise given to such ministers as Silvan Shalom, who voted to release terrorists on the condition that a separate vote be held on Israeli-Arab convicts.
Yet Silvan Shalom was nowhere to be found. Minister Naftali Bennett (once he had been contacted by Makor Rishon’s Ariel Kahane) obtained a clarification from cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, who explained that Netanyahu’s promise applied only to Israeli citizens, not to Israeli residents.
Get it? According to him, the cabinet decision not to release Israeli terrorists doesn’t apply to residents of eastern Jerusalem because they’re residents—not citizens.
We decided to confront this excuse in court. In parallel we held street protests that featured a procession to the terrorist’s home in the east of Jerusalem, demonstrating the short distance from there to the center of town. On the legal front, we decided to focus our arguments on the government’s decision to free the five Jerusalem residents, so that the judges wouldn’t eject us on the grounds that we hadn’t added anything to our previous petitions. A dangerous new situation was being created, we asserted: the Netanyahu administration was returning the PA to Jerusalem through the back door.
We proceeded to court from the protest tent, which already had become a public focal point bustling with journalists. Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, for the second time writing a courageous minority opinion, went a step further than he had last time. In accordance with our request, he came down in favor of an injunction delaying the release, to allow time “to discuss the question of whether the government and the team of ministers have given due consideration to this matter and its ramifications, beyond merely receiving the information that these individuals are on the list.” In a word, he accepted our argument that the ministers had been unaware of the maneuver.
Rubinstein also embraced our arguments about the political ramifications of equating eastern Jerusalem residents with those living under the PA in Judea and Samaria. We saw him adopting this perspective when he asked the Justice Ministry’s representative whether release these terrorists—in the middle of negotiations, no less—would not be a breach of Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, and asking further whether Israel distinguishes between residents of eastern Jerusalem and Arabs with Israeli citizenship. Rubinstein also asked why the ministers had not been given a chance to discuss the matter.
Our lawyer, Naftali Wertzberger, believes that we almost won the case … but it seems that in this area, too, “redemption comes only bit by bit.”
Still, we saw immediate results: our struggle played a critical role in producing the leak from the Prime Minister’s Office saying no Israeli terrorist would be released in the fourth installment of terrorists. A senior official corroborated the leak to us: the lawsuit and public demonstrations had been duly picked up by the media, and had reached Netanyahu.
Despite it all, though, our main contention remains unchanged: any release of terrorists by Israel has ramifications for our security.
For an example, we need go no further than Ahmed Halaf, a terrorist released during the Week of Blood who lives at 142 Hashalshelet Street in Jerusalem. This dangerous man lives all of eighty meters from the Western Wall Plaza, as the crow flies. When we marched from the terror victims’ protest tent by the Prime Minister’s Residence to the terrorist’s apartment, we saw that the main street from Jaffa Gate down to the terrorist’s home was decorated in his honor. That very day, a cousin of the terrorist who lives in the same building was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment for throwing rocks while at the nearby Temple Mount.
And what exactly is the significance of the pictures of released terrorists that Palestinian youths have taken to carrying around with them? How much will they do to increase terrorism levels? Did anyone in the cabinet discuss this before deciding to let them go?
We can imagine the released criminals evangelizing:
“Follow in my footsteps …”
“Become heroes of the Palestinian nation.”
“You’ll be lionized!”
“You’ll get a stipend for life.”
“I sacrificed—what about you?”
“Join the martyrs and heroes. Every boy and girl will talk about you.”
“They’ll make movies about you!”
“They’ll learn about you in school!”
Every line has been published by a previously freed terrorist.
Next week, Halaf will wink at his admirers, go down to the Western Wall Plaza, take a trip with his entourage to Mamilla and the Jerusalem Mall, and from there proceed to Azrieli. Then he’ll go have his picture taken by the gate of Defense Ministry headquarters as a memento and upload it to Facebook with the caption: “Ahmed killed Israelis and is now at the Kirya with friends.”
Our demonstrations and lawsuits are having an effect as time wears on. If we want to continue having an effect, we can’t stop now. Not just for the sake of success, but principally for the sake of morality and justice.
Originally published in Makor Rishon, 3 January 2014
Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg