With the third stage of the Palestinian prisoner release set to be carried out on Monday night, demonstrations against it continued on Sunday. Police dispersed a protest outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, and two demonstrators who entered a security zone were arrested.
Ortal Tamam, niece of murdered soldier Moshe Tamam, received an order from the Jerusalem municipality on Sunday morning to dismantle within three hours the protest tent she had erected outside the Prime Minister's Residence. The order drew criticism, and shortly before the deadline, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat came to speak with Tamam, promising to help find a solution that would allow her to stay in place.
"The entire nation of Israel identifies with your cries," Barkat said.
In another protest, dozens of right-wing activists gathered at the main entrance to Jerusalem and called on the government not to free murderers. Two demonstrators were arrested at this protest.
Government ministers on Sunday issued varied responses to criticism of the prisoners' release. Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said, "Our voters do not think it is necessary to leave the coalition, despite the release of terrorists." Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) said, "For years we've been deteriorating from bad to worse on this matter." And Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnuah) said, "I would have preferred a settlement [construction] freeze to a prisoner release."
The Almagor Terror Victims Association and bereaved families were set to present a petition to the High Court of Justice on Monday against the prisoner release.
The third stage of the prisoner release will include the killers of Israel Prize recipient Professor Menahem Stern.
"It's a very difficult feeling," said Stern's daughter, Meira Stern-Glick. "This time, I believe there were options other than freeing the murderers. They should be in jail for the rest of their lives. The bereaved families understand more than the rest of the public the pain and injustice involved in this.
"The release floods us anew with the pain and the feeling of loss that is accompanies us every day. It is also a great public loss, as my father was an internationally known researcher of the Second Temple period. When he was murdered, my father was working on a big research book that he did not get to complete. He was a warm and loving family man, and he did not get to meet most of his grandchildren, who were born after the murder. I expect the current government to do everything it can to end this cycle of bloodshed."
Meanwhile, as Israelis deal with the pain of the upcoming release, the Palestinians are preparing welcome festivities for the freed prisoners. Some 26 prisoners will be transferred from the Ofer prison to the Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus. From there, they will head to the Muktataa compound in Ramallah, where there will be a celebration attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive in the region this week for the ongoing peace talks.