American officials have assured Ramallah that Israel will release 30 security prisoners on March 29, completing the fourth and final phase of an Israeli commitment to release 104 inmates jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, a senior Palestinian official said Sunday.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who met last week with US Secretary of State John Kerry together with Palestinian chief of General Intelligence Majed Faraj, also told official PA daily Al-Ayyam that he has not yet received any written version of the framework agreement, which was expected to be presented to both sides ahead of the final prisoner release.
“The discussion with the Americans is ongoing on all issues, but they haven’t yet presented anything written,” Erekat told Al-Ayyam.
Israel agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture within the framework of negotiations, on condition that the Palestinian Authority does not seek membership in international organizations and treaties during the nine-month time frame for negotiations ending in April.
Erekat did not mention whether the list of 30 would include 14 Arab Israelis whose release would require a separate Israeli government vote. But an aide to Erekat, Xavier Abu Eid, told The Times of Israel in a telephone conversation Sunday that the Americans confirmed the original list submitted by the PA, which includes the Israelis.
The number of Palestinians cited by Erekat to be released in the final installment is different from the number quoted by MK Ibrahmim Sarsour, who told The Times of Israel that the Palestinians are requesting the release of 32 inmates, to compensate for six prisoners released previously but who were not on the original list of pre-Oslo detainees submitted by the PA.
Sarsour said he fears that Israel will use the release of the six Palestinians as “an excuse” to continue detaining Israeli Arabs.
“Who always falls between the cracks? It’s the veteran prisoners with Israeli citizenship,” Sarsour said.
On Sunday, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin called on the government not to release any more Palestinian prisoners unless the Palestinian leadership agrees to continue negotiations beyond April, which it has so far been reluctant to do.
Erekat told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday that he had advised PA President Mahmoud Abbas to quit the US-brokered peace talks. Abbas, however, was waiting until the final release of the terrorists from Israeli prison.