Though peace talks have yet to restart, the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners continues to stir heated debates in Israel. The Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee held special deliberations on the issue Monday, during which chairwoman Miri Regev said, "A terrorist should stay in prison for the rest of his life. In Israel, you'd be better off as a security prisoner than you would as a criminal one. You'd get better terms."
MK Regev addressed the fact that the gesture of releasing prisoners was an American initiative: "For 20 years the US has been hardening its heart, and president after president refuses to release Jonathan Pollard in the name of the national honor of the American people. If we are speaking of gestures, I'd like to see the US grant a gesture that is the release of Pollard."
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Representatives of the Israel Prison Service, the Justice Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office also attended the Knesset committee meeting.
Also in attendance was Eliyahu Kremni, whose son Ronen was murdered 23 years ago with his friend Lior Toubol. The two were on their way to see friends in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev, and their bodies were found two days later in a nearby valley. Their killers are on the list of prisoners who are to be released.
"The killers got four life sentences for four murders of which they were convicted," Kremni told the committee. "They haven’t even completed one life sentence. At the time I signed I was willing that one of my son's killers be released in exchange for releasing Gilad Shalit. Now I urge people's hearts to look at my side of this. In the name of all the bereaved families, in the name of everyone whose heart is still bleeding, please, consider putting a stop to this."
According to Director of the Department of Pardons at the Justice Ministry, Emi Palmor, since 2003 Israel has released 430 prisoners at the Tenebaum deal, 1,000 at the Shalit deal, 400 for the release of Azam Azam, and an additional group, the number of which was not divulged, for the release of Ilan Grapel.
Moreover, Israel has released between 200 and 400 additional prisoners, under five various occasions over the past decade.
When asked who was in charge of choosing which prisoners would be released, Palmor replied, "The ministerial echelon passes on the names to a Justice Ministry committee. Over the past years, the lists did not consist of prisoners with blood on their hands."
Regarding the prisoners included in the "pre-Oslo" group, Palmor added "It is a list of 82 people who were convicted of security offenses. The list has been under debate for years… each and every one of them has blood on his hands."
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