Government attorneys have responded to an appeal against the release of 104 convicted terrorist murderers as a "goodwill gesture" to the Palestinian Authority (PA), ahead of US-initiated talks.
The case comes as the government prepares to release the first "installment" of murderers this week. In the first release, 26 will be set free, to followed by further installments when and if the PA shows its "sincerity" according to chief Israeli negotiator, Tzipi Livni.
An appeal against the release was lodged two days ago by the Almagor terror victims association. On Monday, the court said that Almagor had a good point, and ordered the state to cause why the terrorists should be released.
In response, the state has challenged that the courts have no right to intervene in "purely political considerations" of the government.
In a statement, government attorneys said that "The subject of releasing prisoners is an integral part of the political process embarked upon by the government," adding that the continued, phased release of terrorists would take place as and when progress was made in negotiations with the PA.
State attorneys went on to challenge that the courts have no right to involve themselves in the matter whatsoever, which they claimed was political, not legal.
"We are speaking here about a political decision that is at the heart of the security policy of the government of Israel, and as such the appeal should be rejected outright."
There is widespread popular and political opposition to the government's decision to release convicted murderers, spanning the Israeli political spectrum, including from members of the ruling coalition.
Speaking with Arutz Sheva on Monday, Almagor director Meir Indor claimed that the petition had a good chance of being accepted, because it was based on a precedent set by High Court president Elyakim Rubinstein, who said that while the court generally should not meddle in matters of state, the court could examine whether the state's actions were legal.
According to Indor, the state's bid to release terrorists crosses several legal “red lines,” not the least of which are the refusal by previous governments – including that of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin – to release these same terrorists. In addition, theare coming before any substantial diplomatic activity, and the state cannot justify them in any way without that activity. In addition, he said, criteria hammered out by a government-appointed committee on terrorists have not yet been approved, so it is reasonable to question why these releases would fit those criteria.
Despite the fact that such petitions have not been successful in the past, Indor said that there was still a value in presenting them. “It's a protest and an educational effort, that makes it clear that we know what is permissible and what is not,” said Indor, who said that his group's efforts were appreciated by many in the IDF and the government.
“A top IDF officer once told me that if Almagor did not exist, it would have to be invented, because there would be many more terrorists released.”