Release of Palestinians in peace deal raises anger and protests in Israel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 12:34am


From a rudimentary tent outside the Israeli prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, Ortal Tamam, whose uncle was killed by Palestinians, protested against the imminent release of Palestinian prisoners.

"I feel my uncle is being killed for a second time, and this time by my government," Tamam, 25, said, explaining she was there to "protest at the release of Palestinian terrorists".

Her uncle, soldier Moshe Tamam, 19, was on leave when he was abducted, tortured and killed by Palestinians in 1984, years before her birth.

"My family was crushed by Moshe's death, but his killer could be released from prison, receive money from the Palestinian Authority and a hero's treatment," she said.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to the phased release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in line with commitments to United States-backed peace talks, which resumed in July.

A first batch was freed in August and a second in October, with a third group of 26 prisoners expected to walk free late yesterday.

The vast majority of those to be freed were behind deadly attacks on Israelis prior to the 1993 Oslo peace accords, and have by now served long prison terms.

Holding pictures of victims of Palestinian attacks carried out by some of those to be released, Tamam said she wanted to be the voice for "the many Israelis who reject this immoral release".

"Even if this release goes through, we are crying out to prevent it from happening again," she said.

Tamam, who has been at the protest tent since Wednesday, was not the only person bracing the winter chill in protest.

For Yitzhak Maoz, 66, releasing Palestinian murderers was "like twisting a knife in my wound again".

His daughter Tehila was 18 when she and 14 others were killed in an August 2001 suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizza shop.

"I came to express my pain, which increases each time I hear terrorists are going to be released," he said.

Maoz said he had "never recovered" from his daughter's death.

The perpetrators of the bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria were set free in 2011 as part of a deal that saw the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held by militant movement Hamas in Gaza for five years.

"When we released my daughter's killers there was a reason: saving Gilad Shalit," he said. "But what do these new releases bring us? So long as the [Palestinian] incitement, hatred and violence continue, I can't understand the reasons behind them."

Many within Netanyahu's coalition also are against the releases, including ministers Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel and Uri Orbach from the far-right Jewish Home party.