Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) criticized on Sunday the attempt by Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and other ministers of his party to pass a law that would prevent the release of terrorists as a gesture to the Palestinian Authority.
The law was voted down by the Ministerial Law Committee earlier on Sunday. The law, introduced by MK Orit Struk (Bayit Yehudi), would have likely prevented a release of terrorist prisoners set for Tuesday.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva from Denver, Colorado, where he is attending a Jewish National Fund conference, Peretz accused Bennett of trying to grab attention in the headlines by promoting the law.
"It is clear that what Minister Naftali Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi ministers did was meant for internal public relations,” said Peretz. “It is not something that helps Israel. It triggers public debate around the world and gives the Palestinians the chance to say that they are not the only ones who have extremists, Israel also has extremists."
He added, “I'm happy that, contrary to what happens with the Palestinians where a small organization can cause the negotiations to stop, we live in a democracy and the Ministerial Law Committee made a logical step.”
"A party sitting in the coalition cannot behave this way,” said Peretz. “If Bennett thinks that the release of prisoners is something that can harm the State of Israel - it is a government decision. If he decided to be in the government, just as I let it go when the government passes laws on social issues with which I disagree, so should he.”
"There was a vote, a decision contrary to your opinion, you can get up and leave, but once you did not leave you have a collective responsibility just like all of us," Peretz said, turning directly to Bennett.
Peretz said that it was Bennett who chose to release terrorists instead of freezing construction in Judea and Samaria.
“I would be happy to adopt the position of the United States, that one does not release terrorists, but Naftali Bennett and his friends prevented a decision on a construction freeze. If it had been possible to freeze construction, it would not have been necessary to release the prisoners. Bennett and his friends preferred a prisoner release over a freeze,” he charged.
Responding to Peretz’s comments, the Bayit Yehudi said, "Do not be confused: Peretz and Tzipi Livni supported the release of terrorists. The entire Bayit Yehudi party voted against it. Livni has come a long way since she opposed the release of Gilad Shalit for terrorists, and today she is supporting the release of terrorists in exchange for the dubious right to speak to Saeb Erekat. Bayit Yehudi will continue to oppose the release of murderers, and Livni will continue to explain her changing of her views based on the political position she is trying to promote.”
Meanwhile on Sunday evening, a committee of ministers decided that 26 terrorists serving jail sentences of 19 to 28 years will go free in 48 hours.
Five of the terrorists to be freed Tuesday are from Gaza and 21 are from Judea and Samaria.