Members of the National Union-Tekuma faction of the Jewish Home party, including MKs and the party's director Nachi Eyal, met Sunday in Jerusalem and discussed a number of issues, among them the prospect of the government's releasing Israeli-Arab terrorists as part of the upcoming release of terrorists.
This would be the fourth time Israel is set to release terrorists in the latest “round” of releases, which began last year. Israel committed to releasing over 100 terrorists, many responsible for the deaths of multiple Israelis, as a “gesture” to tempt Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas to restart talks with Israel after a three year hiatus. So far, Israel has released more than 75 terrorists.
Another 26 were set to be released several weeks ago, but the government held up the release at the last moment. In response, the PA threatened to cut off talks with Israel altogether, and sent documents to 15 UN committees and commissions demanding recognition as a full member state, in violation of a commitment they gave not to do so, to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Israel canceled the last round of releases in response, but Kerry has been pressuring Israel to go through with it anyway. The PA has demanded that Israeli Arab terror prisoners be part of the deal.
The talks began to unravel completely last month when the PA's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and its refusal to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline caused Israel to indefinitely postpone the final tranche of the 104 convicted terrorists which were to be released in a "goodwill" gesture that was contingent on the progress of negotiations.
Last week, Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett announced that his party will leave the coalition if Israel agrees to release Israeli-Arab terrorists as part of a framework agreement to extend peace talks with the PA, and on Sunday, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who leads the party's Tekuma faction, said that he and others present – including MKs Zvulun Calfa, Orit Struk, and Shuly Muaellem, and Deputy Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan – all agreed with that stance. “I expect that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will ensure that that Israel's sovereignty not be damaged” with any such deal. “We cannot allow ourselves to fail each time. We must stop this slide down the slippery slope” to a sacrifice of Israel's sovereignty, he added