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The Schmooze

Ovadia Yosef Frees Man Who Tried to Kill Him

What would be your attitude toward someone who had plotted to kill you? I can’t help thinking that I’d be more than a little broiges.

You would imagine that the stakes are upped a little when the target of the murder plot is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party. After all, his would-be murderer was planning his death as an act of terrorism, and Yosef famously said in 2001 that it is “forbidden to be merciful” to Palestinian terrorists. People initially presumed that the “them” referred to Palestinians in general, but he then clarified that he meant Arab terrorists.

But Yosef has just given his blessing to the freeing of Salah Hamouri, who plotted to kill him in 2005, in the second release of prisoners for the Shalit deal later this month. Hamouri is a Jerusalemite with French citizenship, and Yosef made his position clear to the French Ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot, who visited his home.

Netanyahu said he would only cede to French pressure to release Hamouri if Yosef agrees.

In what must have been a difficult and emotionally-taxing decision to reach, Yosef put aside his personal feelings for national priorities. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai explained his thought process, saying: “Rabbi Yosef appreciates the French president’s actions for the benefit of the State of Israel and the Jewish community in France. Therefore, as part of his general outlook and concern for the Jewish nation, he has decided to grant the request.”

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