Terror Victims, Conservatives Blast Palestinian Prisoner Release

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Terror victims and conservatives on Tuesday were asking why Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would agree to release hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners to bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

On Monday, at a summit with Abbas and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, Olmert said he would recommend that Israel free 250 security prisoners from Abbas' Fatah faction "as a gesture of goodwill to the Palestinians, and amid an understanding of the importance of the issue of prisoners."

Those to be released should not have Israeli blood on their hands, Olmert said, and they will have to sign commitments not to become involved in terrorism.

In return for Olmert's concession, Abbas publicly stated his acceptance of the three international benchmarks: renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and abiding by previous Israeli-PLO agreements. Presumably that would include fighting terrorism.

But Meir Indor, who heads a terror victims' association, is trying to prevent the prisoner release from happening.

In the last five years, 179 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists who were previously in prison, said Indor. Many of the former prisoners were freed as a result of politically motivated deals.

"Once you give them a second chance, they prove that they can do it better," Indor said by telephone.

"This is a wrong, harmful message that will not strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It will only weaken it," said former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who now chairs the rightwing Likud faction,

Abbas "will be hurt by such a decision," Netanyahu said in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "Giving them guns and releasing their prisoners is a big mistake."

The announcement "will weaken Israel and bring about a renewal of terror attacks," said Likud faction chairman Gideon Saar.

Olmert's government coalition partner, Yisrael Beiteinu, said it might leave the government over the pending prisoner release.

But Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh said that Olmert's decision was a "wise" move that would accelerate the release of abducted Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Israel has not released any Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to the Palestinians for over a year. But with Hamas in control of Gaza and Shalit still held captive, Olmert is now rushing to prop up Abbas.

He's not alone: The U.S., Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the West have all thrown their support behind Abbas and his Fatah faction since Hamas outgunned Fatah and took over the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.

Hamas released an audio recording of Shalit on Monday, in which he urges Israeli to free Palestinian prisoners. Analysts say the tape was timed to steal Abbas' thunder at the summit and draw attention to Hamas.

Dr. Arieh Bachrach, whose son Ohad was murdered in a terrorist attack twelve years ago, said there are other ways to secure Shalit's release without releasing terrorists.

For example, Bachrach said Israel should stop Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails from receiving visitors and cut off electricity and water to the Gaza Strip until Shalit is returned.

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