Finance Minister Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party is the second-largest in the coalition, spoke out Tuesday in defense of the government’s decision to free terrorists convicted of horrific murders.
In an interview with IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal) Lapid argued that freeing terrorists was the best option from among several options United States diplomats had put forth.
“There are always options around the table. One was that Israel would recognize that negotiations would be based on the ’67 borders’ with land trades, and with a building freeze in the territories [Judea and Samaria - ed.],” he said.
The Palestinian Authority demands that an Arab state be created in Judea and Samaria (Shomron) with borders based on the 1949 armistice line which separated Israel and Jordan for 19 years, and refers to this line as the “1967 border.”
Lapid continued, “They spoke about a whole series of options… There were all kinds of things, all dependent on each other.” The government chose the option that looked the least bad, he explained.
While Lapid defended the decision, Minister Yair Shamir of Yisrael Beytenu expressed strong objection to the release of terrorists. “Yisrael Beytenu is staunchly opposed to freeing prisoners from Israel who have committed crimes, who have murdered, who have taken lives,” he said.
Israel’s government agreed several months ago to free over 100 terrorists convicted of serious offenses, primarily murder, as a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The third group of prisoners was set free at 3 a.m. on Tuesday.
Despite the late hour, the freed killers were met with festivities in Ramallah. Abbas declared their homecoming “a day of joy to our people.”
Abbas and other PA leaders have insisted that Israel free all terrorists and other Palestinian Arabs convicted of violent crimes against Israelis. He declared Monday that the PA will not make peace “until all prisoners are released.”
Abbas also continues to celebrate terrorists who have died fighting Israel as “martyrs” – including those who targeted innocent civilians.
The United States welcomed the terrorist release as well. "The Israeli government's commitment to release Palestinian prisoners helped enable the start... and the continuation of the final status negotiations, and we believe this is a positive step forward in the overall process," said State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “expresses his appreciation” for the release, she stated.