Delayed by a few hours, Olmert's gesture to Abbas - the release of 87 terrorist would-be murderers from Israeli prisons - has begun.
The 87 terrorists, none of whom actually succeeded in their attempts to murder Jews, are being released in keeping with a good-will "propping-up" gesture on the part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his government towards Fatah/Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Olmert wishes to strengthen Abbas and Fatah, at the expense of Hamas, with the understanding that Hamas is a worse enemy. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel at all, while Fatah recognizes Israel, even as its members continue to take part in terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.
The Cabinet approved the release last week, over the objections of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) and Shas (Sephardic religious) parties, as well as that of Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz (Kadima).
On Sunday, Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor turned down a request by the Almagor Terror Victims Association to delay the release. Almagor termed the freeing of the terrorists a "grave danger to the citizens of Israel," but Judge Naor was not convinced that this warranted judicial intervention in the government's policies.
The release was to have been effected early this morning (Monday), but for reasons described as "technical," the first busload of prisoners set out from Ketziot Prison only at 11:20 AM.
Nearly 30 terrorists are to be taken to the Erez Crossing leading into Gaza, if the additional "technical difficulties" are overcome, and another 58 will be brought to Ramallah. Official welcoming ceremonies will be held in Ramallah, but are not expected in Hamas-run Gaza; none of the freed terrorists are Hamas members.
Each of the prisoners is required to sign a commitment not to engage in terrorism in the future. Two months ago, when some 250 terrorists were released in another good-will gesture, one terrorist refused to sign, and was returned to jail. The Almagor organization has documented dozens of cases in which terrorists freed by Israel have returned to active terrorism.
Some of the prisoners had been sentenced to remain in jail until as late as 2012; one of them was arrested as early as 2002.