Knesset Speaker: Cabinet, Not Legislation, Must Dictate Prisoner Swap Deals

Reuven Rivlin says Shamgar report should be approved as a government resolution but should not be used as a basis for legislation.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin warned Sunday against laws that could shackle the government in future prisoner-exchange deals, saying he would oppose attempts to legislate recommendations by the Shamgar Committee that has examined the issue.

"The Shamgar report should be approved as a government resolution but should not be used as a basis for legislation. The Knesset doesn't have to restrict the cabinet from operating within its realm of authority," Rivlin told President Shimon Peres at a meeting yesterday.

Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin
Alberto Denkberg

"Anchoring the Shamgar report in legislation that will then be constantly changed in response to the circumstances and public pressure will turn Knesset legislation into a Band-Aid. The Knesset must not be dragged into such a thing. We should let the cabinet use its judgment in future deals and allow it to adopt the report as a guideline."

Rivlin added that restricting the cabinet's judgment through legislation would be harmful to Israeli democracy as it would violate the separation of powers.

"The government must be free to conduct affairs of state and security, while the Knesset plays an oversight role," he said. "Bringing every little thing to the marketplace disrupts the management of the state."

MK Danny Danon (Likud ), meanwhile, said he would expedite a bill calling for conditional pardons that would return any released prisoner who reverts to terrorism behind bars immediately, without trial.

The bill passed its first reading in May and has the Justice Ministry's backing.

Under the proposal, a court would be replaced by a quick administrative procedure that would allow a convicted terrorist's previous sentence to be reimposed, even if his new terror-related crime was relatively minor.

"A crime whose real sentence is five months in prison could end up being a crime carrying a life sentence," said Danon.

He called on Rivlin and all members of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to advance the bill quickly so it can go into effect as soon as possible.

"We've reached an extreme situation," Danon said. "We have to pass this law immediately to increase Israeli deterrence against Palestinian terror and provide better protection for Israeli citizens."

Also yesterday, MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beiteinu ) demanded that Interior Minister Eli Yishai revoke the citizenship of the six Arab-Israeli security prisoners who were released to obtain the freedom of Gilad Shalit. Now that they are free, the fact that they carry blue ID cards poses an even greater security risk, he said.

In a letter, he called on Yishai to use his authority to ask the courts to rescind the former prisoners' citizenship because of their threat to public safety.

During yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his ministers for approving the prisoner swap with Hamas that secured Sgt. Shalit's release.

"Last week we brought Gilad Shalit back to Israel alive and well after more than five and a half years in Hamas captivity," Netanyahu said.

"I wish to thank the ministers for sharing the load of our decision," he added, citing the "two weeks of extraordinary public unity" generated by the soldier's release.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that there will be no more deals to return prisoners or kidnap victims based on the principles that guided the Shalit and Jibril exchanges, in which Israel released more than 1,000 prisoners each time.