MKs call on Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction instead of releasing prisoners
'Construction freeze can always be reversed, but it is impossible turn back wheels on releasing more prisoners, terrorists and murderers', opposition lawmakers write in letter to prime minister.
Opposition Knesset Members issued a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday calling him to halt the fourth round of Palestinian prisoner release expected at the end of March.
The letter was initiated by MKs Hilik Bar and Omer Bar-Lev (Labor). In it the legislators request a halt to the release of convicted terrorists, and propose to replace the good-will gesture with a freeze on all settlement construction while negotiations with the Palestinians are underway.
The letter is signed by all members of the Labor party, as well as MK David Tzur (Hatuna) and MKs Ya'akov Margi and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas).
The lawmakers behind the letter noted that in the past, the administration chose the least favorable option out of its potential good-will gestures to intice Palestinians back to the negotiations table. "Freezing of settlement construction can always be stopped, but it is impossible turn back the wheels on releasing more prisoners, terrorists and murderers," the letter reads.
"In addition, the prisoner release entails the risk of them returning to terror activities and continuing to harm the citizens of Israel. Therefore, we call upon you to immediately act to switch the gesture of releasing prisoners and terrorists for a different gesture in the form of freezing construction in the settlements."
The signatories emphasize that a temporary freeze would satisfy many rightists, support the bereaved families and prove that protecting human lives is more important than continued construction in the West Bank.
The letter was sent after the coalition expressed similar demands earlier Monday. Meeting with students, Yesh Atid Faction Chairman MK Ofer Shelah said that the gesture of prisoner release must be replaced with ceasing all construction in the territories: "The choice to free prisoners is the worst one out of all the options standing before the prime minister as a precondition to enter peace negotiations."
MK Hilik Bar told Ynet: "Converting prisoner release for construction freeze, at least during the period in which peace talks are underway, is the right thing for the government, the bereaved families, our sense of justice and Israel in general. This is certainly the right thing to do to show Israel's seriousness and commitment to the talks. This should have been the original decision. It's a shame Israel chose releasing prisoners to begin with."
MK Omer Bar-Lev added: "Netanyahu today faces an opportunity to turn into a leader rather than remain a follower. A construction freeze is the right act at this time from both a moral and an international perspective, and most importantly – it is best for the interest of the State of Israel."