Speaking from the Ketziot prison, where over 250 terrorist prisoners were released this morning, terror victims' activist Meir Indor says many Israelis are disgusted at the idea.
Indor, head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, was on hand to watch the 255 terrorists being released. "I came with just one other person," he said, "a man whose son was murdered by terrorists several years ago and who came straight from visiting a monument to his son, and yet the authorities here didn't let us come near the reporters. They called this mission 'Fresh Breeze,' and they didn't want to let anything ruin the refreshing atmosphere..."
"But I can tell you," Indor continued, "that even though the politicians and the higher-ups in the army and those who are waiting to be promoted don't object to this release, the fact is that as you go further down in the army and security forces, there is a lot of opposition and disgust. In the Supreme Court, as well, at least one judge - Elyakim Rubenstein [the lone dissenting voice in the 2-1 decision upholding the release] - showed, let's say, dissatisfaction with the release."
"You can also tell by the talkbacks on the websites," Indor said. "Opposition to this deal is very widespread... It's just a terrible deal for Israel. And the authorities tried to hide its full extent. Even today, the commander of the southern region of the Israel Prison Service was quoted as saying that all the prisoners to be released had served 70% of their time - when in fact he's either stupid or a liar. About 3/4 of them have served only between a third and a half of their sentences, and we showed this in the Supreme Court yesterday!"
"We also forced the State's representative to admit that several of them were repeat offenders. Judge Rubenstein asked, 'Don't you think that this is an indication that they should not be freed?'"
Later, Indor was allowed to speak with reporters, and he expressed satisfaction at having been able to explain his case to several news outlets. "I don't wage these battles in order to win," he said, "but merely in order to hopefully ensure that the next time, more terrorists will remain in prison."
Gesture to Abu Mazen
The 255 prisoners were freed today as a gesture by Prime Minister Olmert to Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), in order to strengthen his waning stature. Olmert promised the release four weeks ago at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit with Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"Olmert just threw out the number 250," Indor said, "and then told the security services to deal with finding the right ones. And then when they came up with a list, Olmert behaved like a gangster and said, 'That would be insulting to Abu Mazen. I need bigger fish!' And so they gave him bigger fish - people who placed bombs, who used to be sentenced to 20 years and now are sentenced to only 10, and now they got out after 3-4 years, just because they were lucky and the bomb didn't kill anyone but only damaged the car. And they included attempted murderers, and those who fired shots and missed, etc."
Reminded that the terrorists signed a commitment not to return to terrorism as a condition for being released, Indor said, "We have 196 families whose loved ones were murdered by terrorists who were once in prison. The lesson is simply not learned, and we see that Olmert's decisions are made hastily, not only in last summer's war, but here as well."
Fatah claimed on Friday morning that 30 of the 255 freed prisoners were Hamas members, but both Israel and Hamas denied this.
Scattered Throughout Yesha
The terrorists were taken to the Bituniya checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, from where buses took them to the various area of Judea and Samaria. The release of one terrorist was canceled when he was found to be a Hamas member, and that of another one was delayed when he refused to sign the commitment; he was finally persuaded to do so, and was freed.
On hand to greet the freed prisoner terrorists outside Ramallah was Arab-Israeli Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi, together with Abu Mazen and others.
Among the 255 is Abdel Rahim Mallouh, who was Deputy Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Mallouh's PFLP terrorists were behind the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, the suicide bombing in a pizzeria in Karnei Shomron, murdering two teenagers, and more. Mallouh, a personal friend of Abbas, was sentenced to seven years in prison, and was scheduled to be released two years from now.
In another Olmert gesture to Abu Mazen, 178 wanted Fatah terrorists have been taken off of Israel's wanted list for the coming three months, unless they are found to be actively engaging in terrorism. If they succeed in acting peacefully for the next three months, their names will then be taken off the wanted list permanently.