Court Hastens to Quash Moves Against Swap
The High Court of Justice moved quickly yesterday to reject two separate petitions filed in an attempt to cancel or postpone today’s prisoner and bodies exchange with the Hezbollah.
Justices Theodor Or, Edmund Levy and Esther Hayut turned down the petition filed yesterday afternoon by the International Association of Victims of Arab Terrorism and the Yesha Guards, which argued the decision to go ahead with the release “of hundreds of dangerous terrorists” was “extremely unreasonable.”
A few minutes after that petition was handed in by attorney Baruch Ben Yosef, a second petition was delivered to the court by attorney Ze’ev Dessinger, who argued on behalf of Almagor, another group of victims of terrorism, that the government did not have the authority to free the Arab prisoners because they represent “a clear danger to the security of the state.”
Both petitions also demanded that the court cancel any government plans to release Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese man serving a life sentence for the murder of three people during a seaborne terror attack in Nahariya in the late 1970s. The petitions argued that freeing him would be a contradiction of the government decision of November 2003, not to free Kuntar. The current deal is said to have a second stage in which Kuntar will be released in exchange for new information about what happened to Ron Arad, the Israel Air Force navigator missing since 1986 and last known to be in the hands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon.
After both petitioners made their case, a state attorney, Dina Zilber, argued before the justices that while the government made a difficult decision, “the public interest dictated returning the kidnapped soldiers and civilian. With all due sorrow and pain, the court must be consistent, as in the past, and rule that this is a political matter in which the court does not intervene.”
During the entire hearing, relatives of victims of terrorists who were once held by Israel, released and then committed acts of terrorism again, sat in the courtroom. But after hearing both sides, the justices called a brief recess and upon reconvening issued a short statement saying that “while fully understanding the families, there is no alternative but to reject the petitions.”
The full decision will be released at a later date, the court then said, ending the hearing and the last attempt to halt the prisoner exchange.