The High Court of Justice rejected numerous petitions against the execution of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal today, effectively removing the last legal obstacle en route to the release of the abducted Israel Defense Forces solder.
Earlier today, Israelis opposed to the Shalit prisoner exchange deal asked the High Court to block the release of the jailed Palestinians in return for the captive soldier.
Four petitions were submitted to the court, filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Association and relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks. Judging from similar appeals in prisoner exchange deals in the past, however, the court is unlikely to intervene in what it considers a political and security issue.
In her verdict rejecting those petitions later Monday, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish wrote that Monday’s High Court session was “one of the most loaded and unnerving debates to come before this court.”
“Undoubtedly, the government’s decision will send many terrorists who will be set free without serving their full sentence,” Beinish wrote, adding that most of those to be released were “vile murderers, whose hands are stained with blood of hundreds of victims, innocent civilians, women and children, old and young, that stumbled upon bombing scenes during the years in which Israel struggled against ferocious terror.”
However, the Supreme Court chief said, the “resolution of the issues raised in the case before us, one which involves security considerations, as well as moral and ethical matters, is in the hands of the elected government.”
“Now, perhaps more than ever, it is clear that these hours hold Gilad Shalit’s fate in the balance, and that any change in the agreement may thwart the execution of the deal and even risk Gilad’s life,” Beinish wrote, adding that under those circumstances the court found “that it was not for us to interfere with the government’s decision, which is why the petitions are rejected.”
During the hearing, Shvuel Schijveschuurder, a 27-year-old from Givat Shmuel who lost his parents and three of his siblings in the 2001 terror attack at the “Sbarro” restaurant in Jerusalem, yelled at Gilad Shalit’s father Noam, who came as to court as a defender.
Schijveschuurder – who last week vandalized Yitzhak Rabin’s Tel Aviv memorial in protest of the Shalit deal – shouted: “Hang a black flag over your home in Mitzpe Hila, this is a day of mourning.”
Bereaved family members disrupted the court session on numerous occasions, yelling out their objections to the deal, which is expected to get underway Tuesday morning.
Speaking following the court hearing, Schijveschuurder was beside himself with emotion, calling outside the courtroom: “If the government can’t carry out a ‘price tag’ I’ll carry it out myself.”
“We will not let the terrorists leave Israel’s borders. If the court can’t carry out a ‘price tag’ then I have the justification and the authority to seek that price tag, even from The Hague,” Schijveschuurder said.
Speaking after the court session, Noam Shalit said that his family’s hearts were “with the bereaved families today. We are also a bereaved family and we know that there are bereaved families who support the deal.”
“It’s a tough deal. We would have been happy if Gilad had been freed in other way, but unfortunately the State of Israel has not been able to create the kind of pressure that would bring about his release,” he added.
“I regret the fact that the bereaved families were not with us when we were trying to pressure the Israeli government and Hamas, and top stop the trucks of money and goods [making their way into Gaza],” Gilad’s father said, adding: “Not implementing the deal will not return the murdered loved ones, and, on the other hand, would sentence Gilad to death.
“Any delay, any displacement of a single detail in the deal, could seal his fate,” Shalit said.
Prior to Monday’s court hearing, Prime Minister Netanyahu sent a letter to hundreds of families of terror victims.
In his letter, Netanyahu expressed understanding and empathy for the families, but stated that he is “faced with the responsibility of the Prime Minister of Israel to bring home every soldier who is sent to protect our citizens.”