Prisoner Release Evokes Varied Responses

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - The Israeli Cabinet's decision to release another 200 Fatah-affiliated Palestinian prisoners, some "with blood on their hands," brought mixed reactions in Israel.

"This is a gesture to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the Palestinian people for the upcoming month of Ramadan," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who hopes to replace Olmert as Kadima party chairman, voted against the release, as did Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai and two other Shas ministers.

Cabinet members agreed to release two prisoners who are serving time for killing Israelis.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, also seeking leadership of Kadima, supported the release.

"When Israel releases prisoners only to groups that exert force, it sends out the message that it gives in to pressure and the use of violence and kidnapping are ways of acting against Israel," she said.

Livni didn't comment on the recent deal with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror organization, which involved exchanging the remains of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev for five Lebanese prisoners, including convicted murderer Samir Kuntar.

Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu refuted Livni's position.

"Instead of adopting a resolute stance against terrorism, the Kadima-Labor government continues to release hundreds of prisoners in return for nothing," Netanyahu said, adding that a Likud-led government would "replace weakness with an uncompromising aggressive policy toward terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Shin Bet (General Security Agency) said the Olmert government's propensity for prisoner release is disheartening.

"You have to hear the responses inside the Shin Bet to the release," one official told The Jerusalem Post.

"They work day and night to capture and neutralize terrorists, and all of it is gone in an instant," he said.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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