The Palestinian Authority gave US Secretary of State John Kerry a list of 120 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails who it hopes will be released as a goodwill gesture by Israel.
According to senior Fatah member Hussein al-Sheikh, the release of the prisoners would encourage the Palestinian leadership to consider returning to the negotiating table with Israel.
All 120 prisoners on the list were detained before the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords and Israel’s security establishment recognizes that there would no security threat from their release, he said.
Since taking office earlier this year, Kerry has pressed vigorously for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and has visited the region four times in an effort to kick-start a new round of talks. He is due back again shortly.
On Wednesday at a special Knesset session called to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table, but without conditions.
“We’re listening to all initiatives and we’re ready to discuss initiatives that are proposals and not dictates. We are in favor of conducting negotiations without preconditions — immediately,” the prime minister said.
On Tuesday, Abbas said he was serious about reaching a peace settlement, but it was first up to Israel to accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. The Palestinian Authority has, in the past, demanded a freeze on all construction in Jewish settlements and the release of Palestinian security prisoners as preconditions.
Israeli leaders have repeatedly stated that they accept a two-state solution, conditioned upon Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the addressing of security concerns. Israel has also rejected a strict adherence to the 1967 borders, seeking instead land swaps for parts of East Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement blocs.