On its merits, the cabinet's decision to release Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands is a bad one. It goes without saying that the world would have been better off without such a cabinet resolution. But you cannot divorce this decision from the context in which it was made. In the grand scheme of things, this is the right decision even though it comes at painful price.
Israel has embarked on a path of negotiations as of Sunday. There is much at stake. Talks may culminate in a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians. We seek such a deal; we need it. Only such a deal would guarantee Israel's continued existence as the nation-state for the Jews and avert the prospect of a binational state where people perpetually fight against one another.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acted with courage on Sunday. Some of his predecessors matched that courage, others did not. He should now look at former Prime Minister Menachem Begin's portrait. The late premier shaped history unlike any other Revisionist, or Likudnik for that matter -- with the exception of the founder of the Revisionist movement, Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky. He is the same Begin who agreed to withdraw form all of Sinai, every inch of it, and who was the first to recognize the Palestinians' national rights.
Netanyahu has internalized what some in his cabinet and many in his party have refused to acknowledge: that at this point in time, negotiations are the only available route. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel's security is paramount. Although on the face of it the prisoner release compromises Israel's security, the decision helps Israel's standing on the world stage and makes it more secure.
The Labor Party, of which I am a member, has many misgivings over Netanyahu's policies. Starting Monday, the Knesset faction will launch an all-out offensive on his proposed budget, and we plan to vote against economic measures that hurt Israeli society.
But Netanyahu can count on Labor and its 15 Knesset votes when he tries to cross the bridge down the road. We will help him do that safely and with security.
MK Nachman Shai is a Labor Party Knesset member.