Order of prisoner releases ‘a sign of ill will’

Fatah official says Israel should be releasing pre-Oslo inmates based on seniority, or time served

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Qadura Fares, with a picture of jailed Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti in the background (photo credit: Flash90)
Qadura Fares, with a picture of jailed Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti in the background (photo credit: Flash90)

Israel’s refusal to release pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners based on the amount of time they served in jail is a sign of “ill will,” a Fatah official dealing with the prisoner issue said Monday.

Kadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a nongovernmental organization dealing with prisoners’ rights, told The Times of Israel that the list of 26 prisoners approved for release by the Israeli government late Sunday night seems to have been constructed haphazardly according to Israel’s assessment of the level of danger posed by the prisoners.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, for its part, called for those imprisoned first to be released first, starting with veteran prisoner Karim Younis, an Israeli citizen jailed in 1983 for the murder of IDF soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1981.

“It’s not clear to me what the ministerial committee [which authorized the release] wanted to achieve,” Fares said. “What does it gain by postponing the release of prisoner X or Y by two or three months? It’s a sign of ill will.”

Israel, he said, did not consult the Palestinian Authority when deciding which prisoners to release first, but did choose the names from a list submitted by the PA.

“Our position is that there should have been clear criteria for the order of the release, and the criteria should have been by seniority [of the prisoners],” he said.

Fares added that the prisoner release was intended to create a new atmosphere of trust between Israelis and Palestinians, but has instead been used by Israel “to twist the Palestinians’ arm.” He feared that Israel would not follow through with the release of all 104 pre-Oslo prisoners, including 14 Arab Israelis, meant to take place in four stages over nine months.

Knesset member Ibrahim Sarsur told The Times of Israel in late July that US Secretary of State John Kerry had assured the Palestinians that Israel would release all 104 Palestinian prisoners who were jailed before the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993.

While he could not confirm that an official Palestinian request for release by seniority had been delivered to the Israelis, Fares said that Israel was aware of the Palestinian position from media reports.

On Monday, Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Minister Issa Karake said that the release — expected to begin late Tuesday night — will strengthen the PA and overshadow Hamas’s achievement in the Shalit prisoner deal, since no prisoner will be deported from his home and 14 Israeli citizens will be included in the final deal.

Fares repeated those points, stressing that any deportation of Palestinian prisoners from their original place of residence, as was the case in the Shalit deal, would be cause for halting the nascent peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Stuart Winer and Ricky Ben-David contributed to this report. 

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