The Israeli government made a grave mistake on Sunday. There is nothing more absurd than starting peace talks by releasing terrorists who murdered women, children and soldiers in cold blood.
The public balks, and rightly so, at the gross immorality of launching a peace process meant to end bloodshed by releasing murderers who were convicted by a court of law. The Palestinians' adamant demands that Israel release these ruthless killers is a solemn reminder that they seek to glorify terror -- not peace.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Likud faction and the public that the greatest achievement of relaunching talks was that they would begin without preconditions. The reality is that of all the possible preconditions -- all unacceptable as far as the majority of the ministers are concerned -- the most painful and publicly jarring one is releasing Palestinian prisoners. The government's decision will echo through the negotiations from day one, reiterating that the Israeli side is giving something without getting anything in return.
The Palestinians have offered no earnest fees ahead of these negotiations. They have not declared any willingness to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, which was the condition Netanyahu set in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. Netanyahu will not offer the Palestinians more than his predecessors, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, so it is just a matter of time before these peace talks deadlock as well.
Is this futile exercise worth setting aside one of Israel's most important principles in its war on terror?
I am not writing this as an Israeli citizen, but as a deputy minister in the government. And if deputy ministers enjoyed a vote in the cabinet, I would join my fellow Likud members Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan in voting against the deal.
The added value of offering an opinion the day after the vote is to tell the government that it is not too late to stop this process, which is supposed to take place in four phases. Israel can still apply an exit strategy, saying that unless the Palestinians commit to ending the conflict, Israel will not commit to releasing terrorists. It is still not too late to vote against this decision and prevent a dangerous precedent.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is the deputy transportation minister.