Yishai: Freeing prisoners will harm Shalit's release
Ahead of cabinet meeting on release of between 150 and 200 prisoners, Shas minister warns against 'virtual gestures' to Palestinian president. 'If we wish to bolster Abbas, the right thing to do would be to create a sequence of economic gestures by the US, Europe and Israel'
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai warned Sunday night that "releasing hundreds of murderers as virtual gestures to the Palestinians will only move (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit's release further away."
The Shas minister spoke ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting on the release of between 150 and 200 Palestinian prisoners, as part of a gesture Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the latest meeting.
"The gestures have become one-sided and unidirectional and are all done by Israel. After it has become clear that they are inefficient, the government must not be seen as groveling. This fails to serve Israel and only harms us. Any move humiliating Israel in the eyes of the Palestinian moves Shalit's release further away," Yishai said.
Sources in Jerusalem have clarified that the gesture has nothing to do with Shalit's release and will be implemented in light of Israel's desire to show the Palestinians that they can gain achievements while holding a diplomatic dialogue with Israel.
But Yishai was not reassured by these remarks. "We must remember that these are not the Lovers of Zion. Many families in Israel have suffered and are still suffering from these 'ticking bombs.'
"We should look at their past actions in order to learn of their future aspiration. Sitting in an Israeli jail has not turned these murderers into Righteous among the Nations. They were and still are murderers and terrorists who will seek to continue harming Israelis wherever they are.
"If we wish to bolster Abbas, the right thing to do is to create a sequence of economic gestures by the United States, Europe and Israel. Where there is economic welfare there is no terror; where there is existential distress even the moderate forces are swept into terror.
"I am ready to meet my Palestinian counterpart and help develop the industry and the employment. This is the only way to help Abbas establish his rule," the minister stated.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Saturday evening with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at his home in Tel Aviv. The two discussed a series of issues, and Barak promised that Israel would work to remove roadblocks and barriers in the territories, open routes to traffic and issue work permits.
He also promised that Israel would help promote the "Jenin project" model for the advancement of economic initiatives in the West Bank, "which are the key for making progress in the diplomatic process." He added that a special effort must be focused on efficiently handling the war on terror.