On Sunday, the French ambassador to Israel is slated to meet the rabbi who is expected to give his consent for the move.
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In 2009, Sarkozy asked Netanyahu to free Salah Hamouri, who was convicted in 2005 and subsequently jailed in Israel, as a "goodwill gesture." The French president hoped that Hamouri could become rehabilitated in France.
Shortly thereafter, the French foreign minister announced that Paris was demanding Hamouri's early release in any future deal for the release of Gilad Shalit. France has reiterated its demand ahead of the execution of the second phase of the Shalit deal.
Rabbi Yosef with Eli Yishai and Noam Shalit (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)Sarkozy has asked Netanyahu to include Hamouri in the list of 550 Palestinian prisoners that Israel has pledged to release. As part of the second phase, Israel is able to choose the inmates it will release. The French president noted that Hamouri's term is set to end within four months but Netanyahu replied that he needed Rabbi Yosef's consent to allow the move.
French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot met with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai on Thursday and asked him to appeal to the rabbi on the matter. Rabbi Yosef and Yishai agreed that the former will meet with the ambassador after he submits a formal request. It is estimated that Rabbi Yosef will not pose any opposition to Hamouri's early release.
On Saturday night, Bigot sent a letter to Rabbi Yosef on behalf of Sarkozy asking for his support on the matter "on humanitarian grounds." The ambassador noted Sarkozy's deep respect for the rabbi and France's special relationship with Israel. He expressed hope that the move will tighten the bilateral relations further.
Hamouri, 26, who was previously jailed for his activity in the Popular Front, was arrested in 2005 with two other east Jerusalem residents. The three had planned to assassinate Rabbi Yosef. Previous requests by Hamouri to commute his sentence were denied.
Hamouri's mother has been pressuring the French government in recent years to work for her son's release and had met with one of Sarkozy's aides. Groups who assisted her claimed that France must work for her son's release as it did for the release of Shalit, who also holds French citizenship.
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