News / Middle East

Palestinians Prepare for Israel Prisoner Release

Relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails hold a protest demanding their release in front of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, Oct. 28, 2013.
Relatives of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails hold a protest demanding their release in front of the Red Cross office in Gaza City, Oct. 28, 2013.
Scott Bobb
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are preparing to welcome home 26 prisoners due to be released by the Israeli government as part of recently revived peace talks. But the release is causing tensions in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition.

Families of the 26 prisoners Monday celebrated the announced release and prepared to hold parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Most of the prisoners have spent more than 20 years in jail for involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians prior to the 1993 Oslo Agreement that created the Palestinian Authority. Most Israelis consider them to be terrorists but to Palestinians they are heroes of the resistance.

The Palestinian Authority's Minister for Prisoners, Issa Qaraka, called the release a positive step. He said releasing prisoners deepens the peace process and gives it more legitimacy. And it gives hope for the release of all the Palestinians in Israeli jails.

It is the second release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails since peace talks resumed three months ago between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Two more releases are scheduled as part of confidence-building measures before the talks are due to end in six months.

But families of the some of the Israeli victims protested and threatened legal action.

Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, acknowledged that the issue deeply divides Israelis.

"To release the murderers of innocent civilians is a painful and difficult decision which we are taking only because we want to give the peace talks with the Palestinians a chance," he admitted. "It's high time the Palestinian leadership was also willing to make difficult choices for peace."

Two parties in Netanyahu's governing coalition tried to block the release but failed to muster the votes to bring it before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

A senior member of one of these, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau of the Israel Our Home party, accuses Palestinian leaders of launching an international campaign against Israel.

"There's something strange in the fact that as we are negotiating with the Palestinians they go all over Europe asking people to boycott us, describing us as if we were monsters," Landau said. "At the same time they expect that we should continue with our commitments and release murderers who have been convicted."

The Israeli government also announced it would build more homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This was widely seen as a move to appease critics of the prisoner release.

A spokesman for the Hamas movement that controls Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, accused the Israeli government of using the release of prisoners to seize more Palestinian land. Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel.

Barhoum said the release of some Palestinian prisoners can't be used to cover the building of 1,700 more houses in Israeli settlements.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to resume peace talks in July following several months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks have been shrouded in secrecy but Kerry last week said all the outstanding issues are being discussed.

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Comment Sorting
by: GU 43 from: Russia
October 29, 2013 8:53 AM
I agree with Dr V. S., - Israel should come home to mother Russia.
we fix problem with Iran in five minutes. we fix problem with Arabs in even less than five minutes... all the Philistins back to Jordan - thats it - problem solved.
Russia jews have been great officers and warriors in the Great Patriotic War. We have been estranged since 1948... too long.

by: Puck Futin from: USA
October 29, 2013 8:36 AM
The Holy Land is the home of Jews and Christians. There is no difference between Jew and Christian. any Jew is welcome in the Church and the might of the whole of Christendom is his sanctuary. God's gifts to His chosen people were meant to enlighten the path of Christ.

Now, these bloody Arab murderers have killed Israeli children, they have killed American and they have killed Russians. Obama has no right to pressure Israel to commit this act of self sacrifice.

lastly, I suggest to the Russian guy... Israel and US share a bond of brotherhood and solidarity unequal in the whole catalog of human history - irrespective of who temporarily occupy the "WH." so, cool it... Russia. .. Israel go nowhere!!! and their home is with US.
you may have Cuba and Ukraine, Latvia and Czechoslovakia... but if you even attempt to touch Israel... our swords will come out... I promise you

by: Kate from: New York
October 29, 2013 12:51 AM
These prisoners are terrorists. They have killed both Israelis and Americans.
The US has an obligation in US law to bring to justice anyone who has killed Americans. But this administration has not done so.

by: Kolton M from: Texas
October 28, 2013 11:39 PM
As a american, I agree with the russian guy. Putin may be a dick who steals super bowl rings and hate's gay people. But I would rather have him in my corner than the c'urrent WH regime.

Be careful my Jewish friends, those guys are about to be hero's to there people and they are going to strike again.

DONT RELEASE THEM. Forget peace talks. The holy land belongs to the Jews.

by: Dr. V. Samyanov from: Moscow State U.
October 28, 2013 8:16 PM
For generations Israel and the United States have shared almost an umbilical link. Israel was far more "American" than many American States. It was stunning for us (former Soviet Union) to see such bonds of cultural affinity, shared industrial sophistication, shared academic research and real shared values of mutual admiration between these two nations. But now I believe the Israelis are beginning to understand that the WH is perfectly willing to place them in mortal jeopardy. And this latest charade that Israel is being forced by the USA to swallow - releasing Arab terrorists convicted of murdering Israelis families should make them realize that the umbilical cord has turned into a noose...

I believe that Israel should consider strengthening its ties with Russia. Putin has visited Israel more than any President of any nation put together. Over 80 percent of Russian Oligarchs are domiciled in Israel - even Putin has a villa in Israel... Putin is an admirer of Israel... and the whole world by now knows that Russia do not betray her friends... EVER - therefore, I say to Israel, its time to come home.

by: Hirsch Alter from: College Park, Maryland
October 28, 2013 4:03 PM
"Most of the prisoners have spent more than 20 years in jail for involvement in attacks on Israeli civilians" - this statement is not specific enough. All 26 prisoners were involved in attacks that killed Israeli civilians.
Also, Jerusalem is part of sovereign Israel.

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