Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and Shabak chief Yuval Diskin oppose the government's new trend towards easing up on criteria enabling the release of terrorists.
While most ministers apparently support the idea, Mofaz, Diskin and others don't like the process the government began on Monday to ease up on criteria defining which terrorists can be released from prison.
Until now, the government has been steadfast in refusing to free terrorists who have "blood on their hands" – i.e., were involved in murderous attacks – in the framework of prisoner releases. There were many who objected to even this relatively strict definition, saying that terrorists who tried to murder Jews but, for one reason or another, failed, should not be eligible for freedom.
The Issue is Shalit
However, the government is now leaning towards relaxing the criteria even further – apparently because otherwise, a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit might not be possible. On Monday, a ministerial committee convened for the express purpose of narrowing the term "blood on their hands," thus enabling the release even of terrorists who had a role in murdering Jews.
Foreign reports have it that a deal is in the works for Corp. Shalit. It would involve the exchange of some 500 Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel – including some who are currently categorized as having "blood on their hands" – in exchange for the captive soldier's return home.
Shalit was captured a year and a half ago by Hamas terrorists who crawled through a tunnel under the Israel-Gaza border. The kidnappers also killed two IDF soldiers in the attack.
Staffing the committee dealing with the possible change are Vice Prime Minister Chaim Ramon, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, and Minister Without Portfolio AMi Ayalon, a former GSS Director. Ramon, Ayalon and Dichter have already expressed support for the new definitions. Another meeting is planned for Wednesday, when the security establishment's position will be heard.
GSS head Yuval Diskin is reportedly strongly against the new tendency, and will make his opinion heard at the next committee session.
Also against the idea is Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima), who said, "I'm against the release of murderers, and I don't understand this whole thing of changing the criteria."
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, on the other hand, feels that as Shalit was captured as a representative and emissary of the entire country, and therefore everything must be done to bring him home.
The Almagor Terror Victims Association and MKs Aryeh Eldad, Benny Elon and Yuval Shteinitz are all against the move. Eldad said Prime Minister Olmert will be responsible for those murdered by the terrorists to be released, while Elon decried the "moral, legal and military bankruptcy" involved in such a decision. Shteinitz said, "With all the flexibility and pragmatism, the Government of Israel is aiding terrorism and harming the international war against terrorism."
Shifra Hoffman of Victims of Arab Terror (VAT International) said this would be another good opportunity for the right-leaning Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu parties to quit the government, "or else they will be guilty of having blood on their hands in allowing past and future murderers to be released."