Now blaming prisoner swaps

June 19, 2014
Sarah Benton

Ynet and Times of Israel report. The English transliteration can be either Shalit or Schalit.

Gilad Schalit walks with his father Noam, right, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak at Tel Nof air base in central Israel, in a photo released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Oct. 18, 2011. Photo by Reuters issued by Prime Minister’s Office.

Timely bills would prevent future release of terrorists in prisoner swaps

New legislation would restrict government’s ability to release unrestricted number of prisoners in exchange; MK Stern: Israel has handed over 7,500 prisoners for 14 living Israelis and six bodies.

By Moran Azulay, Ynet news
June 16, 2014

With almost chilling timing, the Knesset has in recent days been dealing with a new bill to limit the government’s authority to decide freely on releasing security prisoners. The bill could hamper any prisoner swap for the three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped by Hamas operatives in the West Bank on Thursday night.

Past experience shows that despite the fact that the kidnappers have not yet made any demands, they will probably expect the release of Palestinians murderers jailed in Israel in exchange for the boys.

A few days before the abduction of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Naftali Frenkel,16, the Knesset saw the advancement of several bills to limit terrorist releases during negotiations. The first, approved by the government a week ago (after it was held up in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation) and it allows a judge to sentence a convicted murderer to life in jail with no parole. The bill, drafted by MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and Hatnua’s David Tzur, and sponsored by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin of Likud, passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum.

The bill is essentially an amendment to the Basic Law: The President of the State, which allows judges to consider at sentencing the severity of the murder and decide in special cases to prevent future clemency.

The bill basically takes away from the government the option of freeing terrorists – an issue that drew harsh criticism during the four-stage release that Israel approved last year as part of diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians.

“The entire Israeli people are praying today for the return of the boys,” said Shaked on Monday. “Releasing terrorists is like spilling more fuel onto the terrorist bonfire, and would encourage more and more abductions. It’s time to shift direction.

“Vile murderers should die in prison and never be released, and terror organizations should be aware of this. The bill would prevent mass murderers from being released in future deals. This bill is moral and worthy.”

‘No swaps for dead bodies’
Meanwhile, MK Elazar Stern of Hatnua is also promoting his own bill, which he submitted to the Knesset last week. Stern proposes a regulation of government principles for prisoner exchange negotiations with terror organizations, and points out that the conclusions of 2008 Shamgar Commission on prisoner releases have not been adopted.

Below, Hatnua MK Elazar Stern, promoting one of the new bills against prisoner swaps.
elazar stern

New principles
Stern proposes that Israel release one terrorist in exchange for one soldier; that no living terrorists are released in exchange for bodies of IDF soldiers; that the terror organization with which Israel is negotiating chooses the terrorists it wants freed from a closed list determined by Israel. Furthermore, Stern’s bill suggests, should the government see fit to release prisoners in order to advance negotiations with a terror organization, it would have the option of only freeing up to 10 terrorists without receiving any prisoners in return.

The bill also determines that living conditions of prisoners linked to terror organizations that have abducted a soldier would be reduced to the bare minimum, but in accordance with binding international conventions signed by Israel. This would take effect within 72 hours from the moment of any abduction.

Freed Palestinian prisoners ride on the shoulders of their friends and relatives upon their arrival in the West Bank after the Gilad Schalit deal, 2011. Photo by EPA

“Israel is known for its willingness to pay a heavy price to free its captive soldiers, as well as for the bodies of soldiers who died during battle,” wrote Stern, a former IDF general, in the bill he submitted to the Knesset even before the recent kidnapping. He also highlighted prominent examples of massive prisoner releases in return for a handful of soldiers:

Stern mentioned the two “Jibril Agreements” of 1983 and 1985, in which 4,765 terrorists were released in exchange for six Nahal soldiers, and 1,150 terrorists were freed in return for three soldiers, respectively. He also raises the 2011 Shalit deal, that saw captured soldier Gilad Shalit freed by Hamas in exchange for the release of 1,027 terrorists, as well as the 2004 prisoner swap with Hezbollah, in which 450 terrorists were freed in exchange for the bodies of three soldiers and one living Israeli.

“All in all, the Israeli government has released 7,500 terrorists, some with blood on their hands, for just 14 living soldiers and civilians, and the bodies of six soldiers,” said Stern.

Stern maintains that the principles of his bill are “based on the recognition that the release of many terrorists for a small number of soldiers, or their bodies, creates an incentive to continue abducting soldiers for bargaining needs and returns these dangerous terrorists to the ranks of the terror organizations.

“In addition, the release of terrorists harms deterrence of potential terrorists as they realize their family would receive financial aid and they would win fame and release in the next deal.”

shilat release

Israelis cheer as they watch a television broadcast showing Gilad Schalit, at a former protest tent calling for his release, near the residence of PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Oct. 18. Photo by Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

No more prisoner swaps, Liberman vows after kidnapping

Foreign minister says deals like Shalit exchange could lead to more abductions, blames Abbas for kidnapping of Israeli teens

By Times of Israel
June 15, 2014

Israel will not agree to the early release of Palestinian prisoners under any circumstances, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday, rejecting chances that Israel would seek a swap to gain the release of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped Thursday in the West Bank.

Liberman, speaking to Army Radio from the Ivory Coast, where he is on a diplomatic trip, said the kidnapping of three teenagers — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 19 — was partially the consequence of Israel’s policy of releasing batches of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped Israelis.

“There will be no more prisoner releases in instances such as this,” Liberman said, adding that “in no way will those who sit in Israeli prisons be freed.”

He said ministers from his Yisrael Beytenu party would not vote to free Palestinian terrorists.

Liberman drew a link between the kidnapping and the deal to free kidnapped Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit in 2011, which saw the release of 1,027 long-term prisoners, many of whom had been convicted on terror charges.

He added that long-serving Palestinian prisoners, some of whom hold senior positions in Hamas and other terror groups, are agitating behind the scenes for kidnapping attempts, as it is seen as the surest way to gain freedom.

On Friday, a senior Islamic Jihad official called on Palestinians to kidnap Israeli citizens, arguing that Israel had proven in the past that it was willing to negotiate the release of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the lives of its civilians.

Speaking during a protest in the Gaza Strip, Khaled Albatsh specifically urged members of his organization to target Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The three Israeli teens were grabbed while hitchhiking near the settlement of Alon Shvut south of Jerusalem Thursday night.

Liberman laid the blame for the kidnapping at the feet of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, calling it the fruit of the recently established Palestinian unity government, which enabled Hamas to increase its activities in the West Bank.

“Clearly, Mahmoud Abbas is responsible [for the kidnappings],” Liberman said, because he “established a unity government [with Hamas], but says he has no control of the Gaza Strip…on the other hand he lets Hamas act freely in Judea and Samaria, and we see the results.”

Liberman’s comments echoed that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Saturday said that “the pact with Hamas has led to very harsh results, results which are the exact opposite of advancing peace between us and the Palestinians,” and, although he did not name Hamas, said that there was not doubt that the three teens were kidnapped by a terror group.

Hamas has denied involvement in the kidnapping, although the group on Saturday praised the kidnappers as heroes and said PA coordination with Israel in attempting to locate the three victims was a “mark of disgrace.”

The foreign minister declined to discuss possible Israeli intelligence failures which led to the successful kidnapping or the current state of affairs on the ground, and asked the public to be patient until more details are revealed.

Since the incident began, Israeli forces have entered into a massive manhunt as part of an ongoing investigation into the disappearances.

Overnight Sunday Israeli forces rounded up some 80 Palestinians, including senior members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups, as part of the search for the missing teens.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Saturday afternoon that Israel’s working assumption was that the three were still alive. He admitted that their apparent abduction had slipped “under the radar” of intelligence gatherers who failed to thwart the attack.

“We are in the midst of an intelligence (gathering) and operational effort,” Ya’alon told reporters early Saturday afternoon after holding a situation meeting with military brass. “I hope this effort leads us as soon as possible to the missing (teens) and to rescuing them alive.”

“As long as we don’t know differently, our working assumption is that they are still alive,” Ya’alon said. “This phenomenon of abductions, of abduction attempts, is nothing new,” he added. “In 2013 we successfully prevented over 30 such abduction attempts; this year, in 2014, around 14 such kidnapping attempts.”

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