Landau: PoZ Pollard Should be Released First
Cabinet likely to approve release of 400 Palestinian prisoners
Amos Harel and Gideon Alon - Haaretz - May 29, 2005
The cabinet is expected to approve Sunday the release of some 400 Palestinian prisoners.
This is the second phase of the Israeli undertaking to release 900 prisoners that was made at the Sharm el-Sheikh talks in February.
The night before the cabinet vote, a Palestinian gunmen was killed and two others lightly wounded by Israel Defense Forces fire after the militants attempted to attack an IDF base south of the West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli and Palestinian sources said.
The gunmen opened fire from a car as it drove past the army base, an IDF spokeswoman said. Soldiers returned fire, wounding the militants who were arrested and taken to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment, she said.
It was not immediately clear which Palestinian militant group was behind the attack near the village of Arrabeh, a stronghold for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Meanwhile, none of the prisoners to be freed have "blood on their hands," meaning they haven't murdered Israelis. However, Israel revoked an earlier requirement to release only those who have served more than two-thirds of their sentence in order to fill the 400 "quota."
The prisoners include activists in Islamic organizations, although most of them are members of the Fatah movement.
The list of prisoners was made by a committee headed by Justice Ministry director general Aharon Abramovitz and consisting of representatives of the police, Prison Services, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet Secret Services.
The IDF has recently recommended speeding up the prisoner release, explaining that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas needs an Israeli gesture to prove to the Palestinians that stopping terror pays.
Senior officers recommended adding veteran prisoners who were involved in terrorist attacks to the list of released prisoners. The officers said Israel could release a number of Fatah activists with "blood on their hands" if they had been arrested before the 1993 Oslo agreements and if they had served a considerable part of their sentence.
The Shin Bet, however, vehemently objected, and ultimately its position prevailed. Barring last minute changes, the 400 prisoners will be released at the end of this week. In the past, the prisoners' release was delayed due to the objection of some ministers and petitions to the High Court of Justice.
"It would be a serious mistake and a bad message for the future to release 400 terrorists while at the same time the Palestinians continue their attempts at carrying out attacks every day without acting against the terror infrastructure," said Health Minister Danny Naveh, a member of the ministerial committee set up to examine the prisoner issue.
The minister added that it would be an additional mistake for Israel to soften the criteria for releasing prisoners as determined by the government.
Likud MK Uzi Landau said that Israel should not agree to the U.S. request to release hundreds of terrorists unless the Americans would agree to releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
Releasing prisoners without releasing Pollard would represent another instance of the government's betrayal of a Prisoner of Zion, Landau added.