Left-wing politicians continue their offensive against President Moshe Katzav for lightening Margalit Har-Shefi\'s sentence from nine months to six. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is running for the leadership of the Labor Party, said that he was \"amazed\" to hear of the decision. Labor MK Eitan Cabel has turned to the Supreme Court for help, saying that Katzav\'s decision was \"political.\" Knesset Law Committee Chairman Ophir Pines announced that he had invited President Katzav to its next session so that he can explain his decision. Labor Party youth will set up a protest tent in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest her release.



Katzav, defending himself from the onslaught outside the home of the parents of recent terrorist victim David Cohen, where he was paying a condolence visit, said that the decision was not political. He noted that he did not consult with politicians before coming to the decision, but only with judicial and GSS figures. He further explained, \"I did not bestow \'legitimacy\' upon her: she continues to be guilty, I did not erase her guilt, and this decision has no connection with the lowly murderer... I was more stringent with her than with murderers who are freed for good behavior after less than 2/3 of their sentence.\"



Arutz-7\'s Ariel Kahane investigated the lawsuit being launched by Labor MK Eitan Cabel against Har-Shefi\'s release. Atty. Omri Kabiri, representing Cabel, said that the President overstepped the boundaries of his authority by lightening the sentence:

\"His authority to pardon is to be used only in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a judicial mistake was made or for humanitarian reasons. In this case, there is nothing that justifies this decision...\"



Dr. Rinat Kitai, however, who is a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights, notes that according to Israeli law, the President\'s decisions are not subject to judicial review, and that she is therefore fairly convinced that Cabel\'s suit will be rejected. She told Arutz-7 today,

\"The only claim against a Presidential decision is \'lack of authority,\' but in this case he certainly had the authority to make the decision that he did. I therefore think that the chances of this suit being accepted are very slim.\"



Atty. Kabiri, aware of this weakness, said that he would try to \"attack\" Justice Minister Shetreet, whose signature on the pardon order is subject to judicial review. However, Dr. Kitai said that Shetreet\'s signature is only a technical matter, and without real value, such that it is not truly a \"weak link\" in the pardon process.



(Kahane notes that there was one previous precedent in Israel of a suit against a Presidential pardon. It involved the GSS agents of the Bus #300 incident in 1984, but the issue was whether or not the pardon could be granted before a conviction. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the pardon; only one judge dissented - the man who now serves as Supreme Court President, Aharon Barak.)



Labor Youth member Yariv Oppenheimer was among those who protested outside the President\'s home today. He explained to Arutz-7\'s Haggai Segal today why he is upset: \"This was a political decision, one that is greatly damaging to Israeli democracy... The Parole Board decided not to parole her, and three Israeli courts decided that she was guilty... Israel is a young democracy, and the worst thing that happened to it was the assassination of a Prime Minister... and we must relate to this event differently than we do to any other event...\"



Segal: \"Rabin himself pardoned and released 300 terrorists. Don\'t you think that for the sake of peace at home between the right and left, you could agree to this small gesture of lightening her sentence by only three months?\"

Oppenheimer: \"I don\'t think that this helped the cause of domestic peace at home - on the contrary, it only led to a greater split.\"



Segal: \"That\'s because you are demonstrating and railing against it. If you would accept it, it could be considered a very fair gesture towards the right...\"

Oppenheimer: \"If the right-wing would accept the rulings of the courts, that would also be considered a nice gesture towards the left... I\'m afraid that on Aug. 10, the day of the release, many residents of Yesha will gather together to greet her in a show of political strength, and will use what you call this \'gesture\' for continued incitement such demanding that \"the criminals of Oslo\" be put on trial [as a frequently-seen bumper sticker has it].\"



Segal: \"I have an idea for you - call up one of the organizations who were active on behalf of Margalit Har-Shefi and offer them a deal, that if they won\'t demonstrate that day in favor, you won\'t demonstrate against. What do you think of that idea?\"

Oppenheimer: \"First of all, Israel is a democratic state, and everyone has a right to demonstrate -\"



Segal: [chuckles] \"Of course!\"

Oppenheimer: \"- and I don\'t think I have to come to an agreement with other groups not to demonstrate... I am just afraid that this is another signal that one can do what he wants, and that in another ten years Yigal Amir will also be pardoned...\"



Segal then turned to MK Sha\'ul Yahalom (National Religious Party) and apprised him of the left-wing fear of a \"political demonstration\" when Margalit is released. Yahalom said,

\"I would in fact call upon the people of Beit El [her hometown] to greet her with love and joy, as befitting a neighbor who has returned home, but not to turn it into a political event, because this would then signal that the President made a political decision, when in fact I believe that it was nothing more than a very welcome humanitarian decision.\"



Segal asked Yahalom what he thinks about the \"chorus of objectors\" that has arisen with such non-spontaneity against the pardon. Yahalom said:

\"I think the whole trial and conviction of Margalit Har-Shefi is just a case of \'different cultures.\' During the period preceding the Rabin assassination, Arutz-7 and HaTzofeh and almost the entire national-religious public was saturated with discussions of whether Rabin was considered a \'pursuer\' [rodef], and whether the other Oslo leaders were pursuers, and whether they are traitors, and the like - with no thought in the world that these could be preparations for real murder... The other side, however - the side from which much of the judicial system stems - never dealt with such questions, and does not understand what it means to do so in this theoretical manner. When they came to judge her, then, all they could see was a girl who was right in the middle of plans to murder the Prime Minister. The President came along and looked at it from a humanitarian point of view, saw that she really did not have any criminal intentions, and that she had been suffering for over 5 years, and that she had good behavior, etc. and he decided that she deserved to go home. This was a courageous humanitarian decision, and we must see it this way, and not as a political act. We must tell the left wing that we do not forgive the murderer, and even more: We must not call the Oslo architects \"criminals.\" They made serious mistakes, but so has the right-wing, and we should not relate to them as criminals...\"