Daily Israel Report

High Court: Government Decided Too Fast to Free Terrorists

The High Court last year allowed the freeing of 250 terrorists despite warnings of the security danger. Now the Court has waved the red flag.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/5/2009, 11:15 AM / Last Update: 11/5/2009, 1:04 PM

Israel news photo

The High Court has issued an unprecedented ruling warning the government to be careful before proposing the release of more terrorists. The three-justice panel criticized the ministerial committee that approved last year’s release of 250 terrorists as a “goodwill” measure to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The justices also faulted the government’s hastiness in releasing the terrorists only two days after publishing the list of their names. “It is difficult to say that 48 hours is enough to seriously examine the list and bring arguments against it,” Court President Edna Arbel wrote.

The Court explained last year that it rejected an appeal to stop the release because the government already had prepared the terrorists to leave their prison cells at the same the justices were holding a hearing on a petition filed against the move. They ruled at the time they would examine the government’s decision-making process even though their conclusion would come “after the fact.”

The criticism of the government may make it more difficult for the Netanyahu administration to release terrorists in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Ze'ev Dazberg, attorney for the petitioners, told Arutz Sheva. The lawyer also is the brother of Efrat Unger, who was murdered together with her husband Yaron by terrorists in 1996.

      High Court President Arbel  Photo: Flash 90      “This is an important precedent after years of fighting against freeing terrorists and of warning of the danger to security,” the attorney said. “Finally, we have some success. The Court decided that the time has come to stop and think about terrorists returning to terror. I do not know what will happen with a deal for Shalit, but the Court ruled that the government must examine if each and every prisoner and terrorist is a danger to public security.“

The judicial panel said that the government’s ministerial committee approved the release of terrorists without any detailed information on previous attacks by other terrorists who were released before serving their full sentences.

Israel has released more than 1,000 terrorists for the return of several kidnapped Israelis, the bodies of soldiers who were murdered by terrorists and mainly as political moves to bolster the opinion ratings for Abbas, the head of the Fatah faction and leader of the Palestinian Authority. More than 150 Israelis have been killed by freed terrorists, most of whom signed declarations not to return to terror after their release.

The courts previously have rejected petitions against the releases by stating that the moves involved security and are beyond the justices’ authority. This week’s ruling took the government to task for not allowing enough time for a public debate on the proposal to free terrorists.