Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Netanyahu
Photo: AFP
PM praises Awad arrest as cabinet allies slam prisoner releases
Ministers say capture of terrorist who walked free in Shalit deal only to kill Israeli in Passover attack proves danger of Palestinian prisoner releases.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised Israel's security forces for "solving the murder" of a senior police official who was shot dead as he and his family made their way to a Passover Seder in the West Bank earlier this year.



A gag order was lifted earlier Monday on the arrest of Ziad Awad, who killed Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi when he opened fire on a convoy of cars travelling to the Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of Hebron. Awad was one of the more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners freed in a 2011 exchange for Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier held for more than five years in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.


"I have ordered the terrorist's house destroyed," Netanyahu said. Awad, he added, was a "Hamas man, and his arrest is part of the overall effort we are making to fight Hamas." The prime minister made no mention of the circumstances of Awad's release, in a deal that he himself oversaw.


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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, on Monday slammed the policy of prisoners releases that saw Awad go free.


"Terrorists remain terrorists, murderers remain murders, and deals with terrorists only bring more bloodshed and the 'need' for new prisoner deals," he said.


The issue of prisoner exchanges involving Palestinian terrorists has been much–debated in recent weeks, due to a new bill proposal that aims to legally prevent future governments from freeing terrorists.

Israeli reluctance to free Palestinian prisoners was one of the key issues plaguing US-brokered peace talks that fell apart at the end of April.


"Though I voted against the Shalit prisoner deal I always hoped we would never again learn that freed terrorists return to their old ways," said Lieberman. "We have learned that any prisoner release not only encourages additional murderers, but also allows those who went free and 'promised' not to return to terror to do so."


'No more freeing terrorists'

Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett also doubled down on his opposition to the release of Palestinian prisoners, citing Awad as an example.


"This is crushing proof that the idea of terrorists' release is a bad one," said Bennett. "When the Israeli government releases terrorists it seals the fate of entire families. After 30 years it is clear that Israel shouldn't free more terrorists - under any circumstances, period. Today we should say loud and clear - no more terrorist releases."


Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin of Netanyahu's own Likud party also expressed concerns about future prisoner deals, in light of Monday's arrest.


"Catching a killer who was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal is a warning sign for any future releases," he said.


Levin added that the "responsibility for the murder lies with the entire Palestinian public, which supports the killers and elevates them to hero status. Israel must change the equation so that the entire Palestinian public feels the painful price of murders and abductions".



Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad Shalit said Monday that he had had no connection to the decision on which prisoners would be involved in the exchange for his son.


"We didn't formulate the list of Palestinian prisoners who were to be freed, nor did we demand the release of any specific prisoner," Shalit said.


Shalit has also been in contact with the families of the three teens who went missing last week.


"Since a day or day and a half after the (kidnapping) took place he been in touch with us," Ayelet Netanal, a relative of 16-year-old Gil-Ad Shaer, told Ynet.


"Since day one he has been willing to help," she said, adding that he had aided the family in deciding how to conduct themselves and work to see the boys freed.


Shalit confirmed the contact, but declined to provide details of the communication between them.


"We, like everyone, are waiting for good news. We are prying that the boys will return home quickly," Shalit said. "I offered to meet, but at this point it seems inconvenient for them, and I accept that. As we told them, we are always available to them for anything they need."


Michal Margalit contributed to this report.


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