As a result of the government's voting Sunday to release 26 Arab terrorists to satisfy its promises to the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition is under a great deal of pressure – and on Monday, Netanyahu sought to calm the high emotions that have been engendered by the release.
“The decision to release prisoners is one of the most difficult I have had to make as Prime Minister,” Netanyahu told his ministers at a meeting Monday afternoon. “I am sure that all other prime ministers who have made such decisions thought about them long and hard, as I did, because of the injustice of the whole thing, with convicted murderers being released before completing their terms. My sympathies are with the families of victims” who are seeing justice denied, the Prime Minister said.
Netanyahu stressed that the decision was “an inevitable one based on the reality we face. We are being forced to maneuver through a complicated international situation, with many challenges, that requires us to weigh many issues for the good of the state.”
Netanyahu added that “from the moment the government made its decision, all of its members are obligated to act responsibly, keeping an eye on long-term issues.”
Netanyahu made the comment in light of the Bayit Yehudi's opposition to the terrorist release. Speaking to members of his Bayit Yehudi faction earlier, Economics Minister and party head Naftali Bennett said that the party would continue to oppose the release.
“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,” Bennett said.
The release is part of a deal Israel made with the Palestinian Authority over the summer, and is 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, amid popular revulsion and opposition by right-wing parties.