Israel officials: High Court likely to reject petitions against Shalit deal
On Sunday, Shalit's parents urged the court to reject the petitions quickly, warning that any hitch at this time could easily upset the deal. By Jonathan Lis, Oz Rosenberg and Amos Harel
On Monday, The High Court of Justice will hear four petitions against the deal that would free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. On Sunday, Shalit's parents urged the court to reject the petitions quickly, warning that any hitch at this time could easily upset the deal. "Nobody knows what the impact of any delay, or any change, even the smallest, in the terms would be," they wrote in a request to be added to the cases as parties defending the deal.
Gilad's mother, Aviva, also issued a media appeal to the bereaved families behind some of the petitions, saying that while she understands their pain at seeing their loved ones' killers freed, "any change or delay in the deal could endanger Gilad's life." But sources in both the defense establishment and the state prosecution said they were confident that the court would reject all the petitions by this evening, enabling the deal to go ahead tomorrow as planned. And the petitioners largely concurred. The first petition was filed last week by Almagor, an association representing victims of terror. It is seeking a 48-hour delay in the prisoners' release, saying there hasn't been enough time to thoroughly review all the names on the list, which is necessary to allow people to decide whether to petition against the deal. On Sunday, the group submitted an affidavit by three senior reserve officers warning of the security risks the deal posed. Three other petitions were also filed on Sunday. One was by Meir Schijveschuurder, who lost his parents and three of his seven siblings in the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. It asks the court to set "clear criteria for freeing security prisoners" and objects particularly to the release of Ahlam Tamimi, who was sentenced to 15 life terms for her role in the attack. Schijveschuurder said he had little hope of the petition being accepted but felt obligated to exhaust every possibility of stopping the deal. The second was by attorney Zeev Dasberg, whose sister and brother-in-law, Efrat and Yaron Ungar, were killed in a 1996 shooting attack. Dasberg also wrote directly to President Shimon Peres, on Sunday, to urge him not to sign the prisoners' pardons, saying he didn't understand how Peres could pardon the murderers after having told the media that he didn't forgive them. The third was by Jerusalem resident Ronit Tamari, who is not herself a bereaved relative but said she feared that the deal would lead to a new wave of terror. Aside from the High Court petitions, several bereaved families sought orders from lower courts barring their loved ones' killers from leaving the country. Such applications, filed as part of civil suits, were submitted to the Haifa, Jerusalem and Petah Tikva district courts on Sunday, and Dasberg said he expected other families to file similar applications on Monday. "I've been encouraging people to file civil suits against the terrorists, including a demand for punitive damages," he said. "The minute the state walked away from punishing the terrorists, everyone must do it on his own." Though the Haifa court refused to issue the requested orders Sunday, Dasberg said the ruling did have one positive aspect: It allowed the plaintiffs to serve the terrorists with their damages suit, a necessary step toward obtaining a judgment against them. But even when courts have ordered terrorists to pay compensation, no plaintiff has yet been able to collect. In 2003, for instance, the Ungar family sued both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in an American court (since Efrat Ungar was a U.S. citizen ) and was awarded $116 million. But it has never gotten a penny from either defendant.