Speaking to members of his Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Knesset faction Monday, Economics Minister and party head Naftali Bennett said that neither he nor his MKs would be intimidated into being quiet by the spate of attacks on the party.
Over the past several days, MKs and ministers from both left and right have slammed Bayit Yehudi for its opposition to releasing 25 Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons Tuesday. The release is part of a deal Israel made with the Palestinian Authority over the summer, a “gesture” to tempt the PA to return to talks with Israel. The government is set to release 26 PA terrorists on Tuesday under the terms of renewed peace talks. The first group of 26 terrorists was released in August.
On Monday, the cabinet voted to release the terrorists, with Bayit Yehudi ministers voting against the release. During the cabinet discussion, Minister of Interior Gideon Saar lashed out at Bennett, saying that if that if the Bayit Yehudi members find it difficult to abide by government decisions, they should resign.
Earlier in the day, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation rejected a bill authored by MK Orit Struk (Bayit Yehudi) and MK Yariv Levin (Likud), which would have made it illegal to release terrorist prisoners. Eight ministers – from Likud, Yesh Atid and Hatnua – opposed the bill, and 5 – from Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beyteinu – supported it.
Justice Minister and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni expressed satisfaction at the defeat of the law, saying “Today, we have again made it clear that the government, as opposed to some of its members, is working on behalf of the interests of the state, and not according to the interests of cynical parties or the rabbis of Judea and Samaria,” referring to Bayit Yehudi, which has a great amount of support in Judea and Samaria.
The left-wing Haaretz Israeli daily also launched a scathing attack on Bennett and his party, accusing them of being "dangerous and uninhibited."
“We have been witnesses over the past day to a massive attack against us,” Bennett told MKs. “The purpose is clear. They wish to isolate us, to force us to keep quiet, to make us adopt the positions of the rest of the 'herd.'
“But we will not be forced to agree with them,” Bennett said. “We will not keep quiet. We have clear positions are clear and we are proud of them. We will oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. We believe this is a mistake and a danger. And if we oppose such a state, it should not surprise anyone that we are against 'gestures' like releasing terrorists in order to encourage the Palestinians to talk to us,” he added.
A large-scale protest opposing the prisoner release is scheduled for 7:30pm outside Ofer Prison in Jerusalem, where the terrorists selected for release to Judea and Samaria are being gathered ahead of their bus ride to freedom.