Olmert's Latest Gesture: Conditional Pardon for 178 Terrorists

178 terrorists promise to abandon terrorism. Legal Forum castigates Olmert for misplaced compassion.

Hillel Fendel,


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has agreed to an arrangement whereby 178 wanted Fatah terrorists are granted amnesty, in exchange for their promise to stop terrorism.  The 178 have already signed their commitment to cease engaging in terrorism against Israel.

The name of Zekarya Zubeidi, who has been wanted for many years for his terrorist activity against Israel, is on the list as well. The Prime Minister's Bureau clarified on Sunday morning that this was indeed the case.  The Bureau even apologized for the "technical glitch" that led to the omission of his name in initial reports. 

Representatives for Zubeidi signed this morning his commitment to stop terrorism against Israel.

Palestinian Authority sources say that many of the 178 will be eligible to receive up to 60,000 shekels for turning in their weapons.  An M-16 rifle will net them 55,000-60,000 shekels, a Kalachnikov - 15,000 shekels, and a pistol between 12,000 and 24,000 shekels.  The money is to come from the PA's coffers.

The PA will reissue weapons to many of the 178 who will join the PA's security forces.

The 178 terrorists will benefit from a trial period of three months in which they will not be arrested, unless Israel receives information that they are planning terrorism.  If during the three months they do not engage in terrorism, they will be officially removed from the "wanted" list. 

However, they apparently will not receive an official and irreversible pardon, such that if ever they return to terrorism, they will be liable to be tried on their previous crimes as well.

The Israel Law center (Shurat HaDin) has filed a petition with the High Court against the plan by Prime Minister Olmert to remove 178 Arab terrorists from the "wanted list."

The petition claims that the deal was made in secret with Palestinian Authority officials and ignores international law that requires Israel to bring to trial terrorists who have committed crimes against humanity.

Olmert also previously agreed to release 250 imprisoned terrorists, though their names have not yet been determined.

Several Cabinet ministers are against some of Olmert's latest gestures.  Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) said the mass pardons are a "grave error."  He explained that he is remaining in the government in order to "minimize the damage done" by the government.

Trade Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said that he is against gestures of this nature to Abu Mazen, explaining that Abu Mazen must make more efforts to help himself instead of relying on Israel to prop him up.

Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) said Israel has no choice but to make difficult concessions in order to strengthen the "moderate" elements in the PA.

The Legal Forum, a group of attorneys who lobbied for civil rights of Gush Katif residents, has called upon Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to object to what it calls the "laundering of the murderers."   Forum Director Nachi Eyal says, "The government has reached new heights in proving the truth of the Sages' dictum, 'Whoever is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.'  It was cruel to the youths in Amona and during the Disengagement, and is not closing their criminal files regarding their protests - and yet is now showing compassion to debased murderers.  The message being given is an abuse of justice and the victory of the murderers over their victims."

In response to sharp criticism from the Likud for the amnesty plan, an official of the Prime Minister's office said Sunday, "The Likud has forgotten that in February, 2005 [then-ministers] Binyamin Netanyahu and Limor Livnat, both of the Likud, enthusiastically backed" moves to free Arab terrorists.