Aside from debating whether or not to vote for a prisoner exchange deal that would set Gilad Shalit free, several members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet offered several lines of action Israel could take following the deal’s execution.
Standing head and shoulders above most were Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas and his party member Meshulam Nahari, who said Israel should consider releasing Jewish terrorists who carried out attacks against Palestinians.
“It’s the right thing to do as part of the balances in Israel’s society,” Yishai said, adding that such a move would not “undo the releasing of hundreds of [Palestinian] prisoners, but it may sweeten the bitter pill.”
Other offers that came during Tuesday’s dramatic cabinet meeting were to change Israeli law as to allow sentencing terrorists who had murdered Israeli citizens to death, thus increasing the legal deterrence against such acts.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor vehemently opposed the offer, saying: “I don’t think we should be rushing toward extreme ideas.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who pushed for the completion of the prisoner swap deal in recent weeks, urged the establishment of a set government policy to deal with future abductions of Israelis.
“We need to change the rules from the ground up,” Barak said, indicated that the “Americans, the British, and others formed regulations ahead of such eventualities, and I am sure some of them could fit us.”
“I have formed a committee in the past, headed by [former Supreme Court] Justice [Meir] Shamgar, that recommended guidelines and it will be appropriate to deal with that issue the day after the deal is completed,” Barak said.
Likud’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who had also backed the Shalit deal, agreed with Barak, saying “such a dynamic must be prevented in the future.”
“The kidnappings work against us as efficiently as tanks or missiles. See how many terrorists we are freeing now,” Katz said.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who voted against the deal, also agreed that set rules need to be established in order to deal with future abductions.
‘We have no choice’, Netanyahu told ministers of Shalit deal
Netanyahu’s quest to persuade cabinet ministers to accept the deal to secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit continued behind closed doors on Tuesday. Once the television cameras left the conference room, Netanyahu opened with a fiery monologue, saying he had no choice but to go through with the deal.
For more than four hours on Tuesday night, Israel’s government ministers sat to discuss the deal that would secure the release of Gilad Shalit - until it was finally approved by a large majority. During that dramatic meeting, all of Israel’s security chiefs and almost all of the government ministers voiced their opinions.
“It is true that there are no promises that the prisoners released will not return to terror, but they are already leading terror activities from their prison cells,” Netanyahu told the cabinet ministers.
“There are some countries that don’t hold negotiations with kidnappers, and we can discuss this policy going forward, but in this particular case, this is something that we inherited from the previous government, and we do not have a choice,” he said.
Netanyahu did not mention former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by name, but placed the blame on him in a roundabout way. “This is a reality that was forced upon us from the moment the former government engaged in negotiations with Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
“We could not pay the price, but if we want Gilad to come home, there is no other choice,” the prime minister said, adding “in any case the deal is not the same as the original one drafted by Hamas.”
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