The Younis family was hoping to see Karim Younis, an Arab Israeli who was convicted of the murder of IDF soldier Avraham Brumberg in 1981, freed as part of the Shalit deal, yet he remained in jail. His brother Nadim was certain that as part of the gesture to the Palestinian Authority, Karim would be freed now, but the protest within the cabinet against the release of Arab-Israeli prisoners led to another delay.
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"Everyone needs to understand that the deal will not pass without the release of Israeli citizens as well," the brother said. "If the Israeli government insists, we will insist as well. We have our ways to cancel and delay the deal."
Nadim Younis claimed that "the government must be braver on the matter of releasing prisoners and not give in to those who oppose the release. They are only delaying the peace process. If it is difficult for the government to release prisoners, then we will wait for a new administration that would know how to make decisions that would promote the peace process. Prisoners will be released eventually, if not in this deal, then in a year."
Nadim Younis (Photo: Ido Erez)
Walid Daka is also serving a lengthy prison sentence. Daka was sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment after his involvement in the kidnapping and murdering of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. His brother As'ad Daka told Ynet: "I'll say again, there is no deal without the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens. They would have to return to the negotiations table and vote on their release."
However, As'ad Daka still believes that his brother will be out of jail soon: "We are all optimistic that they indeed will be released; we won't take no for an answer. Otherwise we will take to the streets, and we will continue to fight for all prisoners."
In regards to the rally of the bereaved families, calling to oppose the release of prisoners, Daka said: "Every side has its price. My brother Walid paid the price and suffered a lot, he's been in prison for 27 years and he is in deep pain. We also feel for him."
The mother of a security prisoner added: "The Israeli government must approve the release of my son and release of all Arab Israelis. We thought we would get good news on Sunday about their release, but unfortunately the release is being delayed and I am very disappointed. It is time to release them in a new deal. I want to see my son with the family."
Netanyahu said to Likud ministers Sunday morning: "Any decision on the release of Arab Israelis, if such a decision will be reached, will be sent for reapproval by the government." The prime minister said the special ministerial committee would determine which Arab-Israeli prisoners would be released. The Palestinians demanded that the Arab Israelis be released immediately as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks.
During the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: "There is a very heavy price, but not entering the (peace) process will also exact a price. Entering the process will advance Israel's strategic interests. Any provocation on the part of the Palestinians will stop the release (of prisoners).
"No one has to explain to me what the war on terror is. I lost a brother who commanded over an operation (in Entebbe) that was aimed at preventing the release of terrorists. During Operation Pillar of Defense the public's opinion was that I should continue the operation and enter Gaza. I thought otherwise, and now the residents of the south are enjoying calm that has not prevailed (in the region) for more than a decade," he said.
The matter of prisoners' release divided the cabinet into camps. Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who expressed his support of the decision to release prisoners, said it was "one of the most difficult days for all of us. The heart rebels against the release of terrorists. Regardless of when they committed their crimes, no one could say, 'I'm all for it.'"
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that he intended to "vote against the decision to release murderous terrorists. The decision on the release of prisoners is meant to allow talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and I think this precedent is not good for the State of Israel."
The cabinet approved on Sunday a new Basic Law requiring a referendum on peace agreements that affect sovereign land. Basic Law: Referendum is expected to be brought to the Knesset for a first reading on Wednesday. Because the bill only relates to sovereign land, the government will not have to hold a referendum to sign a treaty giving parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians. However, if a peace deal includes land swaps or parts of Jerusalem, it would require a popular vote.
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