Israel’s plan to free 26 Palestinian prisoners early Wednesday as part of revived peace talks has provoked anger among Israeli hardliners. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s simultaneous announcement of new settlement homes has angered Palestinians.
Israel is preparing to release 26 Palestinian prisoners early Wednesday morning as part of the peace talks that were renewed this summer, according to a statement by the Israeli government on Sunday.
The list of prisoners, all of them serving sentences in connection with the killings of 30 Israelis in attacks carried out before the 1993 Oslo Accords, was published early Monday morning on the website of the Israeli Prisoner Service.
Twenty-one of the prisoners are from the West Bank and five from the Gaza Strip. They all have served sentences ranging from 19 to 28 years.
The longest-serving prisoner to be released is Issa Abed Rabbo, who was convicted of murdering Israeli university students Revital Seri and Ron Levy, while they were hiking south of Jerusalem in 1984. Abed Rabbo was arrested and tried soon after, and has been incarcerated ever since.
According to Israeli media reports, most of the other Palestinians and Arab Israelis sent to prison before the Oslo Accords were involved in attacks that resulted in Israeli deaths. Israel’s government has warned that released prisoners who take up activities deemed “hostile” to Israel will return to prison to serve out the remainder of their terms.
Two days before peace talks re-opened on July 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would release 104 Palestinian prisoners progressively if negotiations proceeded.
New settlement homes to appease Israeli right?
The announcement was met with some resistance in Israel, particularly among families of victims killed by terrorist acts attributed to Palestinians. More than a thousand Israelis on Monday night took to the street outside Ofer Jail in the West Bank, where the prisoners are being held, holding up pictures of slain friends and relatives.
The news has also riled certain Israeli politicians on the right. The Jewish Home (Habayit Hayehudi), an ultra-nationalist and religious right-wing party, on Sunday filed a motion to block the release of the prisoners it considers terrorists. The motion was rejected.
During the first part of the prisoner release in August, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a member of the Jewish Home party, noted that he did not understand how “releasing prisoners could help peace”.
Netanyahu also announced plans for new Israeli settlement homes over the weekend, a move that Israeli media has painted as an attempt to placate his critics on the right. A high-ranking Israeli official told Agence France-Presse last Thursday that “the Americans and the Palestinians knew of this arrangement in advance”.
Palestinian leaders have firmly denied accepting the construction of new homes in Israeli settlements in exchange for the release of prisoners. “Creating a link between the release of a new group of prisoners and the announcement of thousands of new settlement homes goes against all the engagements taken before the negotiations,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top negotiator and member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Palestinian negotiators have argued that the pursuit of new settlements in the West Bank caused the breakdown of the previous peace talks in September 2010.
Date created : 2013-10-28