The word is out, the objections are in, and 26 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are set to go free on Monday night whether the press (or its readers) like it or not.
The front pages alone tell the whole story. Haaretz plays the straight man and announces, “The ministers approved: 26 Palestinian prisoners will be released this week.” Israel Hayom calls the imminent handover “Release, with a heavy heart.” Maariv says that despite the transfer of prisoners, “Cabinet ministers: The Palestinians will reject the American framework agreement.” Yedioth Ahronoth quotes an EU diplomat in its headline, saying “If the talks explode, we will blame Israel.”
Haaretz employs neutral language, referring to the 26 men set for release as “Palestinian prisoners.” In “a laconic message” published by the Prime Minister’s Office, it said, the 26 prisoners set for release were said to have served between 19 and 28 years in an Israeli penitentiary. Israel Hayom, however, uses much more vitriolic language. “The committee for the release of prisoners last night set the list of 26 Palestinian terrorists who’ll go free this week and join the 52 murderers already released in two previous waves,” it writes.
All the papers report on the candlelight vigil and protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in opposition to the release of the prisoners. The press said several hundred attended.
Turning to the peace talks, Maariv reports that the majority of the cabinet believes that the Palestinians will torpedo an American framework agreement “because they reject Israel’s basic terms — recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and agreement to security arrangements in the Jordan Valley according to [US Secretary of State John] Kerry’s outline.”
“Kerry is likely to put a position paper before [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and ask for their approval to the clauses written therein, and also agree to extend the talks by a few months,” Maariv reports. The current round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians were set to take place for nine months starting in July, and are set to end in April.
According to Haaretz, Kerry, who is heading back here later in the week, will continue his talks with Netanyahu and Abbas about the framework agreement, which he seeks to seal by the end of January. In its headline, Makor Rishon notes that this is Kerry’s tenth trip to the region since becoming the US’s top diplomat earlier this year.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Kerry decided to move his trip to Israel up from Saturday to Wednesday. Haaretz says Kerry will arrive on Thursday. Yedioth quotes “diplomatic sources” saying that Kerry moved his trip forward “out of concern that the announcement of [settlement] construction would cause an explosion of the negotiations by the Palestinians.”
Yedioth reports that EU envoy to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said that the European Union believes that an additional announcement of settlement construction after the third prisoner release raises a serious risk of damaging the talks, and the blame for it will fall on Israel.
Elsewhere in the news, Haaretz reports on the massive protest in Tel Aviv by 5,000 or more African migrants against their detention by Israeli authorities. It reports that the crowds marched from south Tel Aviv to the city’s central Rabin Square and demanded the release of detainees and reevaluation of their request for asylum. Others held aloft placards with just numbers, in protest of the state’s filing of a motion in court last week with the 153 migrants listed by their prison ID numbers alone. Despite the lack of microphones or amplifiers, the crowd made its message clear with shouts of “Freedom,” Haaretz reports.
Maariv reports that after the killing of a Defense Ministry worker on the border with Gaza last week, the IDF decided to permit farmers near the border to continue working their fields and provide them with security details against future attacks. The farmers were instructed after last week’s sniper attack on the border to stay a kilometer from the fence, putting their produce at risk. So their crops won’t rot in the fields, the IDF agreed to give them support.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports on one-year-old Roi Jonah struck dead by a car in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood while on the sidewalk with his older brother. Their father dropped them off at their house and drove off. The driver of the car that hit the child “arrived at the street at the same to pick up his kids from the adjacent kindergarten, made a U-turn and hit Roi by accident.” According to a police investigation, the car came up on the sidewalk and struck the boy; the driver was released on bail after investigation.