Israeli Ministers Approve Bill that would Limit Palestinian Prisoner Swaps

An Israeli ministerial committee has approved a bill limiting the presidential pardon of Palestinian prisoners convicted of murder.

The passage of the bill on Sunday by a clear majority, means that it is now ready to be taken to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, for a preliminary vote.

The bill, which gives courts not politicians the final say in prisoner pardons, was proposed by Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party, who joined forces with other hardliners as well as some liberals to table the controversial legislation.

“Israel has turned a new page in its battle against terror and its moral commitment to bereaved families,” said economy minister and Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett.

“Years of extortion and mass releases of terrorists will halt when the Knesset approves this law,” he said in a statement.

If eventually approved, the law could seriously impede the ability of Israeli authorities to negotiate prisoner swaps with the Palestinians which have traditionally played a key part in peace negotiations.

The latest round of US-led peace talks collapsed late last month after the Israelis refused to release a fourth and last round of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners imprisoned for allegedly killing Israelis, breaching a commitment made in 2013.

Throughout the nine months of peace talks, the Israelis released 78 of the promised 104 long-term prisoners, in a move which angered hardliners.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also Israel’s chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinians, opposed the bill, together with ministers Yael German and Yaakov Peri from the secular centrist Yesh Atid party. Livni said earlier the bill limits the government’s leeway in diplomatic negotiations, and that she will therefore vote against it.

Despite Livni’s objections, others from the Hatnua party, expressed support for the bill. Fellow party member but bill signatory MK David Zur on Saturday said that the bill “is meant to give, in certain cases, another step above a life sentence and below a death penalty, which doesn’t currently exist.”

According to him, these cases include political assassinations, nationalistically motivated murders but also regular murder cases, according to Haaretz newspaper.

(Middle East Eye – www.middleeasteye.net)

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