Responding to a decision by the Ministerial Law Committee to approve a bill that would end the releases of terrorists in “gestures” to the Palestinian Authority to advance the peace process, the PA said that the law would “jeopardize future peace talks.” According to Ziad Abu Ein, a top official in the PA's Ministry of Prisoners, the Israeli decision “destroys all possibility of dialog and agreement and will do nothing but keep both sides apart.”
The bill approved Sunday would grant Israeli judges the option of handing down life sentences without parole - an option which is not currently available to them, and meant that until now even terrorist mass-murderers who received multiple life sentences were able to be released either as part of "prisoner swaps" or, as in the last three such terrorist releases, as "goodwill gestures" to the Palestinian Authority.
Writing on his Facebook wall Saturday night, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said that he was optimistic about the chances of the bills passing their initial legislative hurdles - despite opposition from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who insists the option of releasing mass-murderers should be kept open. "For 30 years already the Government of Israel has been releasing terrorist murderers - sometimes in exchange for something, and sometimes not," Bennett wrote on his Facebook wall. "The time has come to put an end to this."
Members of the Likud's National Forum congratulated the government for Sunday's ministerial vote.
“Releasing terrorists as part of the peace process is immoral and anti-Israeli, and sends the message to terrorists that their sentences are more suggestions than actual punishments. The current situation actually encourages terrorism. Likud ministers and others who approved this bill have done the right thing for the security of Israelis,” the group said.
But PA officials said that the deal would backfire on Israel. Speaking to the NRG news site, Kadura Fares said “what will happen if a Palestinian group kidnaps a soldier? The government will not be able to make a deal for him, basically sentencing the soldier to death. How can the government approve a law that contradicts the values of the IDF?
“This bill is the result of a competition between the parties to see which one will sink the lowest,” Fares said. “They are fighting over who will be more rightwing radical. The representatives of these parties are using the suffering of the victims' families and are 'dancing on the blood of the victims' to change the nature of the State of Israel,” he added.