Israel’s Government May Crumble as Terrorist Release Rumors Swirl

“Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.” (Proverbs 16:13)

Bibi and Bennett
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett during a plenum session voting on the state budget, in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, in Jerusalem, late night July 29, 2013. (Photo: Flash90)

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has threatened to pull his political party out of Israel’s governing coalition over reports that Netanyahu agreed to release Palestinian terrorists from prison.

According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2 news, Israel is supposedly working a deal with the Palestinian Authority to extend peace talks past the April 29 deadline that would include releasing the terrorists from Israeli prison.

Bennett, who heads the nationalist-religious Jewish Home party, said he and his 12 Knesset members would crumble the government should the terrorists walk free.

“If the proposition of releasing Israeli murderers is brought before the government, Jewish Home will oppose it,” Bennett said late Thursday night. “If the proposal passes – Jewish Home will leave any government that releases murderers who have Israeli citizenship. Enough is enough”

Releasing terrorists from prison has been a hotly contested issue in Israel. The last release of prisoners was blocked by Israel when the PA refused to guarantee it would continue negotiations past the deadline and instituted extreme demands on Israel. In response, PA President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join 15 international conventions, which Israel views as a breach of the PA’s assurance that it would not seek recognition from the UN.

The PA has refused to retract its applications to the international conventions, saying it was now seeking statehood outside of peace talks. Israel severed ties with the Palestinian Authority and have now begun to impose sanctions on the PA.

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Bennett, who has always been vehemently opposed to releasing terrorists from prison, said that it would be “a blow to Israeli sovereignty, especially as Ramallah has refused to withdraw applications.”

“This is an act of extortion and giving in to terror that we cannot abide with. It is the minimum limit of national honor and we cannot abide with it being trampled upon,” he said.

MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) also protested rumors surrounding the release of terrorists. “Going back to a framework agreement such as this will broadcast weakness and will reward the Palestinians for their stubbornness, and only encourage their desire to bash Israel in the international arena. We must not turn the other cheek when they spit in our face,” he said.

Likud officials responded to Bennett’s comments saying, “We are not keeping anybody in the government by fore. This is a well-known method used by Bennett: to make threats when it is clear to him that they are false threats that will not come to fruition.”

The U.S. State Department has called the report “inaccurate” and denied that any deal between Israel and the PA is imminent.

“The gaps are narrowing, but any speculation about an agreement are premature at this time,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met with U.S. mediator Martin Indyk Thursday night as part of efforts to overcome the current deadlock and extend negotiations. According to officials close to the talks, the latest proposal is similar to its predecessor in that Israel would agree to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners, including Israel-Arabs, and the U.S. would agree to release Jonathan Pollard in return.

News of an imminent agreement came after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said that he would be willing to continue peace talks with Israel past the deadline. Speaking to the A-Sharq al-Awsat daily newspaper based in London, Abbas said that he would agree to extend talks as long as the goal was to establish an independent Palestinian state with a capital of East Jerusalem.