A ministerial panel was Saturday night finalizing the list of 26 Palestinian prisoners, all convicted of involvement in the terrorist murders of Israelis, to go free this week in the third of a four-phase series of prisoner releases as part of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The 26 are set to go free late on Monday, after a legally mandated 48-hour period during which opponents can appeal the release of individual prisoners.
Families of terror victims demonstrated Saturday night against the scheduled releases. Representatives of the families claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been refusing to meet with them.
Israel’s Channel 10 news, which on Friday night claimed Secretary of State John Kerry had proposed that the US would release spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard around the time of the fourth and final phase if Israel would agree to set free Israeli Arab terror convicts, reported Saturday night that Israel was still trying to ascertain whether the offer had the support of US President Barack Obama.
Kerry is expected back in the region toward the end of the coming week, on his tenth visit of the year, to try to push Israeli and Palestinian negotiators toward agreeing a “framework” deal covering all the core issues of dispute in the peace process. But the Palestinians are threatening to scuttle the talks altogether if Netanyahu goes ahead with reported plans next week to announce the building of 1,400 new homes in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior PA official who is close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, on Saturday night called Israeli settlement building “official terrorism,” urged Israel to halt it, and warned: “I hope we don’t get to the stage where neither of us can count the number of bodies” in a new upsurge of violence.
Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press, Rajoub said that the “worst thing [that could happen] is the loss of hope on the Palestinian side.” Amid talks of a third intidafa given the uptick in attacks on Israeli targets, the senior official claimed the Palestinian Authority would not lead its people to violence and bloodshed and hoped to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 2014.
Science Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said Saturday that he opposed the new settlement plans, and that they would do nothing to “calm” any of the families that are protesting against the prisoner releases. He also said Yesh Atid “can’t sit in a government” indefinitely “that’s not making every effort” to advance the peace process.
The High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected an appeal against the release of the 26 Palestinian prisoners.
The petition was filed by members of the Schijveschuurder family, whose parents and three siblings were murdered in a gruesome suicide bombing at the Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem in 2001.