Israel's cabinet on Sunday voted in favor of implementing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to set free an additional 200 jailed Palestinian terrorists as yet another "goodwill gesture" toward Western-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
In a statement issued by his office, Olmert referred to the release as a "trust-building move aimed at bolstering the moderates in the Palestinian Authority and the peace process."
Such moves have in the past done very little to advance the cause of peace or improve the Palestinian Authority's attitude toward Israel, and in many cases have resulted in increased violence as the released terrorists return to their previous ways.
Speaking shortly after Olmert's announcement, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad complained that Israel's gift of 200 terrorists was not enough. Fayyad wants Israel to release all of the Palestinians it is holding, and insisted that Jerusalem alter the criteria for such releases so that more terrorists who have succeeded in murdering Jews are included.
Israel will get nothing in return for the latest prisoner release, a fact that many lawmakers said will only increase the difficulty Israel is having in securing the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Said senior Likud lawmaker Gilad Saar in remarks to Israel National News: "The decision to release over 200 terrorists as a gesture to [Abbas] crushes the public confidence that terrorists and murderers must face justice. It will hurt the security of Israeli citizens, and will harm the efforts to free Gilad Shalit. We can only imagine how the release of 200 terrorists, at no cost, will affect the minimum demands that Hamas will now present for Shalit."
Shalit's father, Noam Shalit, demanded that Olmert not go through with the release until his son is freed.
An avowed leftists, the elder Shalit told Ynet that he in fact favors releasing many more than just 200 Palestinian terrorists, but not while his son is still being held in Gaza.
Naom Shalit noted that Olmert's government has released thousands of Palestinians in similar gestures over the past two years, with no positive effect on the fate of Gilad.