Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
Text size
related tags

A Palestinian prisoner who is also a French citizen will be released soon from Israeli jail as part of the second phase of the Gilad Shalit swap. The release was secured following an unusual correspondence between Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Yosef hosted the French Ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot at his home, and informed him that he agrees to Sarkozy's request to free Salah Hamouri, who was jailed for his role in plotting the assassination of the rabbi.

Hamouri, 26, is a member of the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In 2005, he was arrested after co-conspiring with others to assassinate Rabbi Yosef. Hamouri and his friends, who purchased weapons and ammunition, planned to murder Yosef, whose address in the Har-Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem was known to them because one of the members of the cell had worked as a food delivery man for a local eatery. He is scheduled to be released from prison in less than four months.

Since his incarceration, Hamouri's mother, Denise, has led a public campaign with the aid of Palestinian non-government groups in France. Denise Hamouri argues that since her son is a French citizen, France needs to act to win his release in the same manner in which it has lobbied for the freedom of Shalit, who also holds French citizenship.

After many months of intense efforts, Denise Hamouri was granted a meeting with an aide to Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace, though she was denied the opportunity to meet with the president himself. Since then, Sarkozy has raised the issue in meetings with Netanyahu.

Recently, as part of the Shalit swap, Sarkozy again turned to Netanyahu and asked that Hamouri be included in the list of the 550 Palestinian prisoners to be released in the second part of the deal. Netanyahu said he would not object to the release if Rabbi Yosef himself agreed to it.

In a letter to sarkozy, Rabbi Yosef said that because of his appreciation for the French President, "his warm and excellent relations with the people of Israel and with our Jewish brothers in France, I grant his request."