Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prisoner release on cards to restart peace talks between Israel, Palestine


Prisoner release on cards to restart peace talks between Israel, Palestine
Plan to deport Barghouti to Amman as Israel refuses his return to West Bank
  • By Nasouh Nazzal, Correspondent
  • Published: 16:53 January 25, 2012
Ramallah The possible deportation of Fatah leaders serving life imprisonment in Israeli jails is the key hurdle in reaching a deal between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the Amman exploratory meetings to secure an extension to the Quartet deadline which expires Thursday.
Israel has categorically refused to release Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa'adat, secretary-general of the Palestine Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, if they were to return to their West Bank homes. So. Jordanian and European mediators proposed that they be deported to Jordan to resolve the issue, Gulf News has learnt.
With all due respect and right to freedom for all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, their release will be the last thing the Palestinian people want to exchange their demand of colony freeze
Tayseer Khalid, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation
The release of Palestinian leaders and prisoners in the Israeli jails (before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1994) has lately been the key Palestinian demand to continue face-to-face negotiations brokered by Jordan.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has submitted a list of prisoners to Israelis after it was reviewed by the Jordanian mediators. Israel has been persuaded by the mediators that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas needs confidence-building measures, including the release of prisoners and extension of his control over areas of the Zone C, before the restart of talks.
A senior Fatah official, who refused his name to be mentioned due to sensitivity of the case, told Gulf News that the Palestinians will never negotiate with Israel "without a political price in return".
"A Palestinian approval to direct negotiations, a two-month extension to the Quartet deadline and the continuation of the Amman exploratory meetings is possible only if Palestinian prisoners are released," the official stressed.
A possible deportation of Barghouti, Sa'adat, and several other inmates sentenced to life in prisons will be addressed by the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators during Wednesday's meetings. "This meeting will be decisive in the sense that the Israeli position will officially be presented," he said.
However, Eisa Qaraqei, Palestinian Minister of Detainees' Affairs, denied the possible deportation of Barghouti, stressing that this option is not on the agenda of the negotiators. On its part, Israel has announced that the release of inmates serving life terms is not possible.
Speaking to Gulf News, Tayseer Khalid, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), said that giving up the Palestinian demand of halting Israeli colonial activities is a major catastrophe. He said all Palestinian factions and political parties reject such a deal.
"With all due respect and right to freedom for all the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, their release will be the last thing the Palestinian people want to exchange their demand of colony freeze," he said.
"The release of a number of prisoners in return for the direct negotiations with Israel, the continuation of the Amman useless meetings and the extension of the Quartet deadline will be the worst possible political moves which will badly affect the inter-Palestinian relations," he said. "This is a major sin the Palestinian leadership will be committing," he stressed.
Dr. Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Gulf News that the Palestinian leadership will decide on an extension of the Quartet deadline and the outcome of Amman exploratory meetings shortly.
Hanna Amirah, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Gulf News that the final decision about the future of the Amman talks and a possible extension to the Quartet deadline will be made by President Abbas.