The Inner Cabinet late Sunday afternoon voted 13-7 to free 104 terrorists who were convicted and jailed before the Oslo Accords in 1993, but the decision does not necessarily give blanket approval to free Israeli Arabs who are on the list.
A mini-Cabinet, packed by ministers on the side of Prime Minister Binymain Netanyahu, will decide which terrorists can be freed in four stages stretching over a period of nine months.
Two ministers, Limor Livnat and Silvan Shalom, both of the Likud party, abstained.
Voting with Netanyau were:
— Likud ministers Yuval Steinitz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gideon Sa’ar;
— Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Yael German, Yaakov Peri, Shai Piron and Meir Cohen;
— Yisrael Beiteinu’s Sofa Landver and Yitzchak Aharonovitch; and
— Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz of Livni’s HaTnuah party.
Likud ministers Gilad Erdan and Yisrael Katz voted against the government, as did the three Jewish Home ministers – Uri Ariel and Uri Orbach – and Yisrael Beiteinu ministers Yair Shamir and Uzi Landau.
Livni said the Cabinet should free the terrorists “for the sake of the future,” meaning the resumption of direct talks this week with the Palestinian Authority.
Likud Minister Yisrael Katz replied, “Releasing terrorists is a mistake, just like the building freeze was a mistake. There are ministers sitting here today who supported the building freeze and claimed it would lead to negotiations, and we have seen how far it got us. In six months, it will be clear that freeing terrorists will not bring us anything except to worsen out situation in the region, and in the international community.”
Jewish Home chairman, Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, voted against the government of which his party is a coalition member. “We used to free a terrorist in exchange for a soldier,” he said, “After that, we freed terrorists for the return of the bodies of soldiers, Now, we free hundreds of terrorists in exchange for a process. We are teaching the world that everything is for sale.”