Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Prisoner Release Raises Tensions in Israel Coalition

(JTA) — Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians remain mostly shrouded in secrecy, but one thing is certain: The Palestinian prisoner release that paved the way for their resumption is increasing tensions in Israel’s governing coalition.

Israel completed the second stage of the four-part release on Tuesday, setting free 26 prisoners who had committed crimes – mostly murders – before the Israeli-Palestinian peace process began in 1993. The first stage of the prisoner release occurred in August.

The government approved the release in July in a bid to jump-start the peace talks. But the move elicited harsh protests within the ruling coalition as well as on the Israeli street.

After the government announced the second phase of the prisoner release on Sunday, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing Jewish Home party, proposed a law to prohibit any future Palestinian prisoner releases. The Cabinet voted 8-5 against the proposal; the opposition included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The decision to release prisoners is one of the toughest decisions that I’ve made as prime minister,” Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud-Israel Beiteinu faction on Monday, according to reports. “My heart is with the bereaved families, and the heart hurts. We must navigate a complex international arena.”

An estimated 3,000 demonstrators, among them relatives of the prisoners’ victims, protested the release on Monday night. On Tuesday, a group of relatives unsuccessfully petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to stop the release.

Also Tuesday, an unidentified group placed signs on the graves of soldiers at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery. They read: “Sorry we forgot. For us, your death was for nothing.”

Tuesday’s release comes as the 3-month-old talks face an uncertain future.

Although U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has insisted on complete confidentiality, Israel’s Channel 2 reported this week that the Palestinian Authority reportedly has demanded that land swaps in the West Bank not exceed 2 percent – a provision Netanyahu’s coalition would likely oppose.

Bennett, whose party voted in July against the prisoner release, wrote on Facebook that releasing prisoners is “immoral and weakens Israel.”

“The goal is to establish a red line once and for all,” he wrote after his proposal was rejected. “Israel has been disrespecting itself for 20 years with prisoner release deals, and it’s time to put an end to it. We will continue to fight this in every democratic way possible.”

Bennett’s vocal opposition to the release has brought tensions in Netanyahu’s governing coalition to a head. Along with Jewish Home, the coalition includes Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, which campaigned on a platform of reaching a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority. Livni is heading Israel’s delegation to the talks.

“The government, as opposed to one of its member parties, acts according to the national interest and not according to a cynical partisan interest,” Livni wrote on Facebook, in a dig at Jewish Home. “This government is advancing a diplomatic process, which is in the national and security interests of Israel.”

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    NY-12 Candidate Forum

    THE TEMPLE EMANU-EL STREICKER CENTER and Virtual

    Aug 10, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    Will the last Jew left in New York’s congressional delegation be reelected? Will New York’s senior congresswoman receive another term? Or will one of the newcomers upend Manhattan politics?

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, and credit to Foward. Have questions? Please email us at help@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.