The spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, responded on Sunday to a request by the French Ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot, who asked that the rabbi agree to the release of terrorist Salah Hamouri who was arrested by Israel in 2005 on suspicion of trying to assassinate Rabbi Yosef.
The French government had requested that Hamouri, who has French citizenship, be released in the second part of the deal to release Gilad Shalit. Rabbi Yosef agreed to the release and sent a greeting through Bigot to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In the letter the rabbi wrote that he agrees to Hamouri’s release “in light of my great appreciation for the president and his cordial and excellent relations with the people of Israel and our fellow Jews in France.”
“I bless you, honored president, that you will be successful in all your undertakings and that you will have good health for many years,” concluded Rabbi Yosef.
The French government had requested already two years ago that Hamouri be released as a gesture of good will. The request was resubmitted after the Shalit deal was signed, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he could not release the terrorist unless Rabbi Yosef agreed.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Bigot was interviewed on a hareidi-religious media outlet and revealed during the interview that Sarkozy is the grandson of a Jewish family, explaining this as the reason that Sarkozy cares for the Jewish citizens of France. Bigot also invited Interior Minister Eli Yishai to visit France as an emissary of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
During the visit, Bigot presented a letter to Shalit from Sarkozy, whom the ambassador said was “overjoyed” at the release of Shalit.
In the letter, Sarkozy wrote to Shalit that he “saluted the bravery you showed during this difficult period, and I wish to express the joy and happiness we all feel for you. All France is happy for your return home to Mitzpe Hila. I want you to know how much I respect your parents Noam and Aviva,” Sarkozy continued. “They are an example to all of us. France will never forget you.”
Sarkozy invited Shalit to visit France, when he felt up to it. “We would like to invite you and your family to share the joy at your release. It will be a great honor for me to receive you in the Elysees Palace,” he wrote.