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August 12, 2013 7:42 pm

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danon: Convict Release ‘Encouraging Next Generation of Terrorists’

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Israelis protest the Cabinet's decision to free 104 prisoners. Photo: Tazpit News Agency, Screenshot.

Many Israelis, including some of the country’s government ministers, voiced disapproval Monday of the first phase of a prisoner release initiative, after Israel published the names of 26 convicts it plans to set free later this week as a show of good faith toward the Palestinian Authority, prompted by the start of a new round of peace talks.

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said he was opposed to the demand for any pre-conditions to returning to the negotiating table, and was especially against the release of convicted terrorists.

“Leave aside the security issues, because that’s something debatable, whether those people will be a threat or not, even though we saw in the past that many people released went back to be active in terror, I think it is a moral issue and a wrong decision morally. By releasing them we’re encouraging the next generation of terrorists to become involved in terror activities,” the  deputy minister said.

“The fact that they are going to go back to their villages and be heroes is wrong,” Danon said, adding, “Today the Israeli public is asking why?”

One of the convicts to be set free is Abu Moussa Salam Ali Atiya, who was an accomplice in the murder of Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg, in Petah Tikva, in 1994. Rotenberg’s son, Pinchas, who lives in Azor, told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that the family members are hurt and frustrated by the decision, and feel powerless in the face of the state’s actions.

“This decision is not acceptable to us under any circumstance. We have lived here long enough to know that nothing will come of this gesture,” Pinchas Rotenberg said. “This is a very exaggerated price so that the world will not say that we did not do the maximum, and I do not believe that even among the negotiators, there are those who believe that anything will come of this. I know all the slogans, peace is made with enemies, etc., but the mind cannot fathom why we should make such a significant gesture so that someone on the other side will deign to sit with us.”

Jacob Kimchy, who lost his father, Rami, in a terrorist attack on the Sheffield Club, in Rishon Lezion, in 2002, and who founded One Heart, an organization that helps the families of terror victims, told The Algemeiner he was “beyond disappointed.”

“Many Israeli soldiers and intelligence agents put their lives at risk to catch those who are in jail. Some lost their lives. Billions of dollars are spent each year to prevent more attacks. So how is it even possible to release the biggest enemy we put so much effort into catching?” he asked.

But not all Israelis were critical of the move.”If the government believes releasing the murderer will help advance peace, there is no doubt that it is the right thing to do,” Eida Kinstler, whose 84-year old father was murdered by now-freed convict Faraj Saleh al-Rimahi, told the Times of Israel. “It is not only it’s right to do so, it is its obligation. We have to separate feelings from politics.”

Israel plans to release a total of 104 convicts jailed before the 1994 Oslo Accords in several phases, as part of an effort to keep the Palestinian Authority at the negotiating table during the current round of peace talks, scheduled to resume Wednesday in Jerusalem.

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