Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has approved a clemency deal under which two convicted felons would be released from prison if the information they provide - which they received from a fellow inmate who has been described as untrustworthy and manipulative - leads the authorities to the grave of a missing Israel Defense Forces soldier.
Security officials say that if the remains do turn out to belong to a missing soldier, it is likely to be Majdi Halabi, who disappeared in 2005 while attempting to hitchhike to his base. It is also possible that the remains could be those of Guy Hever, who has been missing since 1997 and was last seen on the Golan Heights, about a kilometer away from the Syrian border.
The deal was struck with Amos Nahum, 62, who has served 22 years of a life sentence for murder, and Elias Dali, 63, who has served 16 years in prison for drug dealing and is due to be released in a year. If the deal goes through, Nahum and Dali will be let out of jail early.
But the reliability of their information has recently come into question, now that their source has been revealed.
The authorities did not know that Mordechai Moshe, who is serving two life sentences for killing two men in separate incidents in 2004, was the source of the information until after the deal was reached.
There are no plans to free Moshe in exchange for the whereabouts of the grave, but he has recently been calling for a lawyer in private practice to defend him in an appeal he has filed with the Supreme Court, which is due to be heard by the end of the year. He later asked for hundreds of thousands of shekels in exchange for the information.
Moshe is not trustworthy, according to the judge who convicted him.
"Based on the appearance of the accused, both in his testimony and his [police] interrogation, as well as his overall conduct in the course of the trial, I had the impression that he is not at all worthy of my trust," said Menachem Ben-David, the retired president of the Nazareth District Court. "He seemed to me to be an aggressive, manipulative and totally uninhibited person, and the obligation to tell the truth is beyond him."
The clemency deal will go through only if a body is found, said a senior official involved in the legal aspects of the deal, which was approved by President Shimon Peres as well as Neeman.
The deal is conditional on "specific information about a specific missing person, and if there is no body, there is no deal," the official said, adding that the government has decided "to give it a chance."
"There seemed to be a basis for the matter, and the exchange was ultimately reasonable," the source said. But he expressed concern that the media coverage of the deal could make it more difficult to locate the body because the prisoners may be wary of continuing to cooperate with the authorities now that their fellow inmates are aware of the negotiations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and David Meidan, the Israeli negotiator in the deal that secured the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit last year, were aware of the clemency agreement.
Majdi Halabi's family, meanwhile, is skeptical about whether the inmates have really found his grave.
This isn't the first time prisoners have said they know where Halabi is buried, though his parents, who live in the Druze town of Daliat al-Carmel, say they continue to hope he is alive.
Revital Hovel contributed to this report.
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