Likud MKs Speak About Prisoners, Pollard

Arutz7 News - July 27, 2003

"The absurdity of the situation and the brazenness cry out to the heavens. At the same time that the Americans demand that we release terrorists, Pollard continues to rot away in American prison!" (MK Tzvi Hendel)

Likud MK Gilad Erdan, speaking with Arutz-7 today, said that because of today's vote on the Arab prisoners, "I ask forgiveness from all who voted for the Likud. The party is not acting according to its ideals and its platform. I assume that my colleagues will soon realize the truth, but it might only be when the whole thing blows up in our faces."

Reminded that government officials such as Minister Ehud Olmert say they have learned from the mistakes of the past, and are proceeding very carefully, and the like, Erdan said, "I would laugh if it wasn't so tragic. We haven't learned from any mistakes, and are instead repeating the same ones; we are simply giving in to international pressure... For the last few months, Israel has been waging an international campaign to convince the world that there's no difference between the military wing and the administrative wing of Hamas, and that that's why we have to target [Hamas spokesman] Rantisi, etc. - and now the government itself releases administrative members of Hamas..."

Arutz-7: "The Likud ministers say that a chance has arisen now, and that we can't afford to miss it..."

Erdan: "I would like to know what they will say in a month from now, when the terrorists say - and everyone knows it will happen; it's just a question of when - that Israel's position on such-and-such question is not acceptable, and what they [the Likud ministers] will say at the next massive bus bombing, when it turns out that some of the terrorists they released were among the perpetrators or organizers..."

MK Michael Eitan of the Likud said that he is of the opinion that "this hudna is allowing the terrorists to reorganize and strengthen themselves, and that the terrorists to be released will help enhance their manpower, etc. - so as you can see, I'm not too happy about the decision today. To be fair, however, I have to say that I have the feeling that if I was a minister, I would probably grit my teeth and vote in favor."

Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane asked, "Could you then please explain why that is? Why would you, and other ministers, vote for something that you know is wrong?"

MK Eitan: "Because there is a feeling that this is part of a larger program set by the Prime Minister, which is to go with the political center in Israel and the U.S., and that the government is going along with it, and trying to see if this chance can turn into something... I don't think the chance is very realistic, but the feeling is, let's try it. The problem is that every step of the way, even though we might sense that it will all blow up in the end, we continue to believe that Sharon knows what he's doing, etc... There are chances on both sides; if we don't release the prisoners, maybe it will be worse for Israel in the short run. It's a process filled with uncertainty... Even the ministers who voted against did so in the knowledge that the majority would vote in favor; there's a collective responsibility for all the ministers, even those who voted against."

MK Eitan said that he organized a petition signed by 112 MKs - all of them, except for the Arab-party MKs - on behalf of Jonathan Pollard. "The Arab MKs are apparently in favor of humanitarian gestures and release of prisoners only when it comes to terrorist murderers, but not when it comes to Jews," Eitan said. "On the one hand, the Americans are asking us to harm our security and nullify legal rulings, while at the same time, the Americans continue to hold Pollard in jail for almost 18 years, which is way beyond what common sense and humanitarian democracy require... I don't want to create illusions, and I can't give details, but I have some kind of feeling that our just demand for Pollard's release will fall on attentive ears this time."

In February of last year, MK Eitan initiated a similar petition that was signed by all 110 then-MKs who were not members of the Arab parties. The Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization wrote at the time, "Never before in the history of the State of Israel has any issue received the support and signatures of 110 Knesset members." No response to that petition was received from the White House.

Prime Minister Sharon is scheduled to present President Bush with the 112-MK petition, on which he himself is signed. MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) said that Sharon must make the release of the terrorists contingent upon the release of Jonathan Pollard. "The absurdity of the situation and the brazenness cry out to the heavens," Hendel said. "At the same time that the Americans demand that we release terrorists, Pollard continues to rot away in American prison."