|"I'm on the party list not because of me," Pinner told Arutz-7, "but because of what my being in prison represents: that which is rotten in Israeli society, and that which we want to fix."
Pinner, 38 and unmarried, was in Gush Katif to volunteer his services as a licensed electrician in refurbishing the Palm Beach Hotel in the last weeks of the Jewish presence there. He was taking a walk on the beach when "about 50 Arabs throwing rocks attacked me," he said. "I was carrying an Uzi, so I shot in the air. After a few yards they began throwing rocks again, so I fired several more shots in the air. The Arabs then backed off, and I went back to the hotel. Four days later I was arrested at home, with the police claiming that I had shot one of the Arabs and wounded him. First they said in the chest, later it turned out that there was an Arab who claimed to have been shot in the leg."
Pinner insists that his life was "clearly in danger."
Though the evidence against him was weak from the beginning, his attorney Baruch Ben-Yosef said, he was kept in prison "until the end of the proceedings" for seven months until his conviction. No judge in Israel was willing to release him even to a form of house arrest, including Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin, who ruled on the case in late December. "It looked at first like he saw through the whole story [and would release him to house arrest]," Ben-Yosef said, "but in the end, the usual happened... [The judge] said that the case is almost over, and things like that."
Sentencing, which could mean a prison term of as long as five years, is to be handed down next week, but Pinner feels it is likely to be pushed off. "I have to have a summation from the probation officer," he said, "but it probably won't be ready in time for next week's sentencing."
What does he do in the plethora of spare time that has been forced upon him? Mostly study Bible and Mishna - and run for Knesset.
"I'm running on the Herut (Freedom) Party list, in the 10th slot," he said.
The Herut Party, inspired by the teachings of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, was originally chaired by Menachem Begin. Its 14 MKs in the first Knesset included Begin, poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg, Yaakov Meridor (father-in-law of 4-time Herut-Likud MK Yosef Kramerman), Hillel Kook (nephew of Rabbi A. I. Kook), Yohanan Bader, Chaim Landau (father of Uzi Landau), and Eri Jabotinsky (son of Ze'ev Jabotinsky).
In the 1960's and 70's, Herut joined with other parties, forming coalitions that finally became the Likud in 1973. The election of 1999 brought about the founding of the new Herut Party by Likud MKs Benny Begin and Michael Kleiner. Begin headed the party in that election when it ran together with the National Union and won four seats; in the 2003 election, Kleiner headed the party with Baruch Marzel, and it did not receive enough votes to enter the Knesset.
In the current election, Kleiner heads the party list, followed by journalist Yehoshua Meiri. Other party candidates include Eli Yosef, famous for his hunger strikes and activism on behalf of Jonathan Pollard; journalist Mordechai Twersky; Chabad member Arkady Pugatch; former Likud members - and Pinner.
"In the light of the fact that Herut has almost no chance of making it into the Knesset," Pinner was asked, "don't you feel that you will be taking away votes that could be used to put right-wing MKs into the Knesset?" Pinner disagrees: "This merely gives the right-wing voter a wider choice."
Pinner noted the issues for which Herut would like to work:
"Herut feels that Israel must have a jury system; if such a system was in place, I would probably be home by now. In most democracies, laws are designed to protect individuals, but in the British Empire - many of whose laws we inherited - the laws were designed to control foreign populations. By the way, that's why we have laws such as the requirement to carry an ID card at all times; the U.S. and Great Britain don't have such a law. Governments can control judges - even if not directly - more easily than they can control juries; the judges are part of the same system that both accuses and judges. From where I sit, I can say that I have seen much miscarriage of justice in this system.
"Herut also believes that there must be financial incentives for Arab emigration from Israel. These would include courses in the language of the country of destination, vocational training, legal issues of absorption. It will be very expensive, but much less than the costs of the intifada (50 billion shekels) and security needs - and then Israel could be a real paradise. We all want a Jewish state, and most of us want it to be democratic, and the only way for it to be both is to have an overwhelming Jewish majority.
"In 1957, our population was 7% Arab, and now it is almost 22%. At this rate, the Arabs will become the majority, which would leave us with three choices: either an apartheid with a Jewish minority in control, or it becomes an Arab dictatorship, or else we disengage from Arab-populated areas such as those around Jerusalem, the Galilee and most of the Negev. In order to avoid these scenarios, we have no choice but to utilize the non-violent democratic tool of encouraging Arab emigration."
Asked how he feels personally about the train of events that brought him to prison, Pinner said,
"I don't have any bitterness. Much worse things have happened to much better people, and in the grand scheme of things I'm really not suffering. I've learned much more Torah here in these eight months than I have in the eight years before that. I have no obligations, though I do have mounting debts, which I will work on when I get out. My plan is to complete the entire Mishnaic Order of Zeraim [involving Land of Israel agricultural laws], and I am going over the Bible for a second time, this time with commentaries, and I'm studying other Torah texts as well...
"I've spoken to many people from Gush Katif, and I realize that I have a much easier time than them. They spent many months worrying about being thrown out of their hotels, to who knows where - while if I'm thrown out, I'll be very happy, and in any event, I always have a home to go back to. Their lives have been destroyed, while mine has just been put on hold for a while."
Daniel Pinner is one of about 28 inmates in the religious wing of Maasiyahu Prison. Though some of them are there for nationalist "crimes" like his own, many are there for having committed bona-fide criminal acts. Asked how he reconciles their religiosity with their crimes, he answered simply, "An observant life-style is not an automatic protection against anything. People get involved in difficult situations, such as arguments and even fights, or they find themselves with no way of making a living, and the like, and sometimes they make mistakes in these situations..."