“Ordering the Palestinian prisoners’ release has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as prime minister,” Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said, following the political and public firestorm created by the government’s decision to forge ahead with the second phase of the goodwill gesture assured to the Palestinian Authority ahead of the resumption of the peace talks in August.
As the stalled peace talks resumed, Israel pledged to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, in four stages. The 26 prisoners included in the second phase of the plan are scheduled to be released late Tuesday night.
“I am sure that any prime minister who has ever had to make a similar decision in the past has agonized over it as well, given the injustice of seeing these heinous murderers freed before they have finished serving their sentences in full,” Netanyahu said.
“My heart goes out to the bereaved families. This decision was a necessary evil, dictated by the reality we live in. We must navigate a complex international arena that presents us with multiple challenges. It mandates that we consider various factors and do what is best for the State of Israel.”
According to an Israel Radio report, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz added that from a strategic perspective, the price of a settlement construction freeze is much higher than the price of releasing prisoners.
Netanyahu also slammed a move led by Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, whose party presented the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee with a bill meant to prevent the future release of any Palestinian prisoners in similar gestures.
“Once the government has made a decision, all government members must act responsibly and sensibly, and maintain a long-term perspective,” he said.
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