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Terrorist Pardon Bill will be Debated in Security Cabinet

Prime Minister decides to have the inner cabinet discuss proposed law along with Shamgar Commitee report on prisoner releases.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 6/1/2014, 2:38 PM

Netanyahu, Jerusalem Day Ceremony
Netanyahu, Jerusalem Day Ceremony
Flash90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided Sunday that instead of having the government vote on a bill that would make it possible for judges to prevent the release of terrorist prisoners, the bill would be discussed by the Diplomacy and Security Cabinet together with the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee on prisoner releases.

The decision was reached following an opinion presented by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who is also the Government's Legal Advisor.

Jewish Home head, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, was reportedly enraged by the decision not to vote on the bill, and according to Maariv-NRG, stormed out of the meeting after Netanyahu announced his decision. However, other reports say he was mollified when Netanyahu promised to bring the matter to the Diplomacy and Security Cabinet next week and said that he would support the bill there.

Another reason for anger in Jewish Home is that, reportedly, there had been a deal between it and Yesh Atid, that the Jewish Home would allow a bill regarding the services of surrogate mothers for homosexual couples, and Yesh Atid would allow the terrorist pardon bill to pass in exchange. While the first bill passed, however, the second did not.

The government had been expected to approve the law, which could prevent future mass releases of terrorists. Proposed by MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), it would allow a court to write into its sentence of a terrorist a clause that would prevent the President from signing off on his pardon in the future.

If passed into law, the bill would change one of the country's Basic Laws, which effectively function as Israel's constitution. Under the Basic Law of the President of the State, passed in 1964, Israel's president has the power to pardon criminals. The new amendment would change this rule, preventing any convicted terrorist from being pardoned for his crimes if the court so decides.

The bill has already garnered tremendous cross-party support: it was signed by members of Jewish Home, HaTnua, Likud, Yisrael Beyteinu and Kadima.

The Shamgar report was commissioned years ago, during the captivity of soldier Gilad Schalit in Gaza. The Shamgar committee, headed by retired Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, reached conclusions, but those conclusions were never made known to the public.

The committee looked into how to conduct negotiations, and asked whether or not it was smart to even discuss the release of soldiers with terrorists. In addition, the committee's report discusses what Israel's “red lines” should be, and who should be in charge of negotiations over abducted Israelis, if they take place.

The report recommends, among other things, centralizing all the efforts to free soldiers under the authority of the Defense Minister, and to avoid using government-sponsored special negotiators to discuss matters with terrorists. In addition, the report suggests avoiding giving “updates” about the status of negotiations. “Secrecy is an important part of our recommendations,” the report says. “It is better to leave to guesswork information about the status of kidnapped or missing soldiers, and not provide that information to groups that will use it in improper ways.”