Daily Israel Report

Grapel to Return Thursday at 9 A.M. Via Taba

Ilan Grapel is set to return to Israel in exchange for 22 Egyptian prisoners and three minors being held in Israel, Thursday 9 a.m. at Taba.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 10/26/2011, 11:42 AM

Grapel (c), Yitzchak Molcho (l), MK Hasson
Grapel (c), Yitzchak Molcho (l), MK Hasson
office of MK Hasson

Egypt is set to release US-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel Thursday morning at the Taba crossing.

He is expected to be returned to Israel at 9:00 a.m., in exchange for 22 Egyptian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, plus three minors, according to a report published Wednesday in the Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper.

None of those being released are security prisoners, according to government sources, but are described rather as "common criminals and smugglers."

MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari and the Land of Israel Movement filed a petition with Israel's High Court of Justice this week to block the release of prisoners in exchange for Grapel.

The petition stated in part that the National Security Council is "not competent to make the decision to release terrorists."

In addition, the petitioners argued that such a decision, made between two states, must be subject to the approval of the entire government.

The release of terrorists for Grapel, said the petitioners, is unreasonable and disproportionate.

"This is an adult, a U.S. citizen who decided on his own to go and intervene in a matter not related to him... countless warnings against travel to Egypt were published in Israeli media, but Mr. Grapel decided to do what he did precisely because of solid radical left-wing ideology, and of his own free choice. Under these circumstances, the question arises, when do the actions of a citizen warrant the release of dangerous terrorists?"

Along with Grapel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered officials to "do their utmost" to secure the freedom of Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Negev Bedouin shepherd held by Egypt for more than 11 years on similar charges. It is not clear, however, whether the Egyptians will agree to free Tarabin; according to the report published in Al Ahram, Cairo has rejected all efforts to negotiate a deal for his release.

Grapel is a third-year law student at Atlanta, Georgia's Emory College. He was arrested June 12 by Egyptian police on charges of spying for Israel, after having gone to Cairo to work as a summer intern for an NGO on a grant from the college.

The espionage charge has since been downgraded to incitement as a result of months of delicate diplomatic negotiations involving the United States.

Described as an ardent Zionist who served as a paratrooper in the IDF, Grapel allegedly is "passionate" about his love of Arabic culture as well. His trip to Egypt was described as an effort to further his knowledge about the land and its people.