In the wake of the government decision to release 256 convicted terrorist prisoners from Israeli jails, the families of 25 imprisoned Jews are demanding their loved ones' freedom.
In a meeting on Monday, the Prisoners' Families Committee and the Honenu organization
The organizations decided on a series of steps to publicize their case.
decided to press for the release of those Jews currently in jail due to offenses committed in defense of Jewish sovereignty or security. According to its literature, Honenu aims to preserve the rights of those Jews who face prosecution as a result of "their actions on behalf of the People of Israel."
In a statement released to the press, Honenu and the Families Committee said, "This demand is made out of humanitarianism and Jewish morality, and is agreed upon by the citizens of Israel."
In addition to issuing the demand through the media, the organizations decided on a series of steps to publicize their case. Among the planned actions on behalf of the Jewish prisoners' freedom are a protest vigil outside the Prime Minister's Office, a petition, which will be circulated in coming days, and meetings with former Israeli Chief Rabbis to obtain their support for the current campaign. Former Chief Rabbis Mordechai Eliyahu, Avraham Shapira and Ovadia Yosef have expressed support for the general activities of Honenu in the past, as have Rabbis Haim Kanyevsky, Simcha Hacohen Kook and Shlomo Aviner, among other prominent figures.
Recently, Honenu and the Prisoners' Families Committee met with several ministers and Knesset Members to garner their support. Among the legislators who joined the list of those in favor of releasing the Jewish 'security prisoners,' or at least those not opposed to such a move, are Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Ze'ev Elkin, Eitan Cabel of the Labor party, and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, and others.
Cabinet Approves Terrorist Prisoner Release
On Tuesday morning, the cabinet approved the release of 256 prisoners who committed security offenses against the State of Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that none of those being released "have blood on their hands." Strategic Affairs Minister Lieberman, Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai voted against the concession to the Palestinian Authority.
"We always are involved in one-sided decisions," Minister Yishai commented. In their deliberations, the government ministers did not discuss linking the release of the Arab terrorists to the freeing of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held by PA terrorists for over a year.
The list of PA terrorists to be released reportedly includes the second-in-command of the
"We always are involved in one-sided decisions." -- Minister Eli Yishai
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), whose organization is responsible for the assassination of former Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas informed the terrorist leader's wife that her husband would be coming home soon.
All the names of the prisoners to be released will be published on the Internet shortly, and citizens will have 48 hours to appeal the inclusion of any individual on the list. Non-governmental organizations representing victims of Arab terrorism are expected to petition the High Court to overturn the cabinet decision in its entirety. Such petitions in the past have been mostly unsuccessful.
The jailed terrorists may go free as early as Friday. They will be dropped off at checkpoints near Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin and Tulkarm, under PA jurisdiction.
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the government for not receiving anything from the PA in return for freeing the terrorists.
Palestinian Authority Undersecretary for the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, Riad Abu Ain, said Tuesday that the PA has rejected the published list of terrorist prisoners to be released, because the PA had no input in drawing it up. The list, he said, "is not serving the Palestinian national interest." Israeli authorities, however, have gone forward with the existing list over PA objections, according to Abu Ain.