Several families with relatives killed in terrorist attacks waited in angst on Sunday as the government was set to publish the list of convicted terrorists to be released this week, fearing another round of freed terrorists with blood on their hands. The prisoners slated for release were announced Sunday shortly after midnight.
"Everything about this release has already been said, but there are aspects that they're not addressing," said Yossi Mendelevitch, one of the prominent activists among bereaved families opposed to the release of terrorists, which was agreed to by Israel within the framework of renewed peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
"For example, from a long-term perspective, it's rather clear that freeing terrorists in every deal until now did not bring us was desired -- peace. It did not move us forward, and I am doubtful whether this time it will move us forward even one millimeter toward peace -- on the contrary," he said.
"It appears as though as of today negotiations are stuck and we are continuing to free terrorists. We are simply shooting ourselves in the foot," Mendelevitch added.
On Sunday, representatives from families in the Almagor Terror Victims Association sent a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, asking him to prevent the prisoner release. Weinstein's deputy, attorney Dina Zilber, summarily responded with a statement, saying "freeing prisoners in negotiations is a clearly political issue in which all of the considerations have been weighed with the highest scrutiny by the executive authorities."
Almagor director Meir Indor responded critically to the statement, saying, "The families of the dead should not need to fight the war for their loved ones."
Several families and Alamagor activists were planning Monday night to demonstrate outside the Ofer Prison near Ramallah. Demonstrators planned to form a human chain completely encircling the Ofer Prison. The protest was called "Stop the Release of Terrorists" and was jointly organized with the right-wing My Israel movement, Im Tirtzu, and Likud's young adult activist group.
On Monday, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee convened to prepare for the upcoming release. At the meeting, committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) voiced her opposition, saying, "The release of prisoners will lead to more terror."
"This is an example of cowardice and weakness on behalf of the government. No normal country releases murderers. In return, we got rockets fired into Ashkelon, a tunnel from Egypt and murders of Israelis. Why do we need to give anything in exchange for negotiations?" Regev said, adding at the conclusion of the meeting that "the equation of releasing prisoners in exchange for talks needs to be eliminated."
Attorney Yifat Raveh from the Justice Ministry briefed the committee on the way the bereaved families had been notified. "Two hours after the list was finalized, the families were contacted through case workers and the representative organization for victims of terror. Not everyone was reached, there were those who had changed their phone numbers and there were also technical problems."
To this, one bereaved father said "only seven of the 16 families were notified." Regev added further that a "tentative list already existed a week ago. They could have prepared in advance and informed the families in the best possible manner."
MK David Tzur (Hatnuah) inquired: "Is there any reason not to release the identities of the prisoners to be released in future stages? The families are in suspense." Tzur added that he opposed the release of prisoners.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said that "Habayit Hayehudi ministers are responsible for the release of prisoners, because they prevented every other option. Why didn't they resign from the coalition?"
MK Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayhudi) meanwhile said that "there were prime ministers here who danced toward the much awaited peace and nothing happened. Nothing will happen this time either, except for a terrible release of murderers with blood on their hands. It is only in the Jewish state that the murderers of Jews can be released. In another place in the world, everyone would cry out if such a thing happened."
MK Talab Abu Arar (Ra'am-Ta'al) added that "Israel is constantly murdering innocent people."