Israel took a step on Sunday toward enacting a law that could block any future release of Palestinian prisoners convicted of killing Israelis, as a ministerial committee approved proposed legislation aimed at denying amnesty to Palestinians jailed for deadly attacks.
Proponents of the new law had denounced the deal made last July to free 104 Palestinian inmates with “blood on their hands” as a gesture to promote the peace talks. Israel freed 78 of those prisoners but called off a planned release of a final group of 26 last month, as negotiations collapsed.
The bill, approved by a vote of 7-3 for submission to the Knesset, would enable judges handing down life sentences to convicted killers to declare them ineligible for presidential pardons.
Israeli presidents and High Court judges have largely rubber-stamped releases of Palestinian inmates agreed to by Israeli governments over the years as part of peace talks or prisoner swaps for Israeli soldiers.
However, the bill faces opposition from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the Yesh Atid party, and its final passage remains uncertain.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), who advocates the death penalty for convicted terrorist murderers, said that he cannot understand their opposition. “Their approach is incorrect,” Katz said. “It is time to remove the equation of releasing terrorists for continuing negotiations [from the political discourse].”
“In the past, releasing terrorist stood against the question of redeeming captives, and we were faced with deep questions about our values,” Katz continued. “I was always opposed to releasing terrorists, except when it came to freeing Gilad Shalit. Now they look for us to release terrorists just to continue negotiations, and we pay with the murder of Jews — and now they even demand [arch-terrorist Marwan] Barghouti’s release.”
If the legislation is adopted, it will not affect prisoners currently serving sentences or those who have been released under presidential pardons.
Meanwhile, the Shin Bet uncovered a plot in recent months by Palestinian prisoners to kidnap Israeli soldiers and use them as bargaining chips for the release of imprisoned terrorists, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The plot, masterminded by prisoners serving life sentences, targeted IDF soldiers in the Hawara, Ariel, and Yitzhar Junction area. Prisoners used smuggled cell phones to send instructions to recruits on the outside, as well as letters smuggled by visiting relatives.
The investigation took place over the past two months, and found that the prisoners had planned to orchestrate kidnappings in April.
The plot was led by a Fatah terrorist, Abd Al-Rahman Athman, from Majdal Bnei Fadal in Shomron. Following his interrogation, the prisoner’s two brothers — Ahmed and Nazia Athman, as well as his brother in law, Nader Zin Adin — were arrested.