Lieberman Changes Tack, Party to Oppose Release of Prisoners

Yisrael Beiteinu head says its cabinet members will be instructed to reject any future deal to free Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he will use party discipline to prevent cabinet ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu from approving any future deals to release Palestinian security prisoners. Yisrael Beiteinu cabinet members voted in support of the Gilad Shalit deal, as well as last year’s goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the release of prisoners in four stages. Three of the four stages were carried out.

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday morning, Lieberman said there will be no more terrorist releases, neither as a gesture or for any other reason.

In cabinet meetings that he attended, Lieberman consistently voted against previous prisoner release deals, including those for Gilad Shalit and Elhanan Tannenbaum.

Lieberman gave the interview despite requests from the Prime Minister’s Office for cabinet ministers to refrain from speaking publicly about Thursday’s abduction of three Israeli teens, last Thursday. He said in the interview that there were three reasons for the decline in security in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“When Abbas establishes a unity government and claims he has no control over the Gaza Strip, not on firing from there and not over weapons smuggling, and on the other hand allows Hamas to act freely in Judea and Samaria, that’s one reason for the deterioration” in security, Lieberman said.

The second reason, he said, was released Palestinian prisoners “flooding the area” together with the agitation by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. “We must not give in to pressure,” Lieberman said.

He also said that Abbas was to blame for the abductions, because he put prisoners, terrorists who killed dozens of innocent people, at the top of his priorities. In addition, Abbas allows Hamas to operate in the West Bank, Lieberman said.

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