Monday, August 13, 2012

Report: Israel to Release 123 Pre-Oslo Palestinian Prisoners in Phases Beginning in October

Report: Israel to Release 123 Pre-Oslo Palestinian Prisoners in Phases Beginning in October

The Palestinian news outlet IMEMC reports that “Senior Palestinian political sources reported Friday that the Israeli government agreed to release 123 Palestinian political prisoners, held before the Oslo peace agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993.”
The sources informed the Quds Net News Agency that Russia played an essential role by repeatedly urging Israel to release the 123 detainees, and that the U.S. 
Administration of President Barack Obama also called on Israel to approve the release in order to facilitate the resumption of the stalled peace talks. 
The 123 detainees will be released on several phases starting this coming October and ending in June 2013.
I am skeptical. 

While Abbas has made this a precondition for talks for months and while Palestinian officials have been lobbying foreign governments to aid him, until now he had rejected all Israeli offers. In addition, it appears that Abbas may have rejected a very similar offer exactly a month ago. 

On July 9, Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that “Israel and the Palestinian Authority are negotiating over Israeli moves that would pave the way for a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.”
According to two Israeli sources and two Western diplomats, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, Netanyahu has expressed willingness to release initially some 25 Palestinian prisoners convicted of the murder of Israelis and another 100 prisoners by the end of 2012.
Shortly after this report was released one of Netanyahu’s spokesperson’s tweeted that “reports that claim that PM Netanyahu will release Palestinian convicts in return for a meeting w/ president Abbas are utterly false.”

Despite this, on July 10, Haaretz reported that “A Palestinian minister said on Monday evening that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected an offer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release security prisoners in exchange for the renewal of peace talks.”
Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe confirmed a Haaretz report that Netanyahu made an offer to release initially 25 Palestinian security prisoners convicted of murdering Israelis and the subsequent release of another 100 prisoners over four stages by the end of 2012. 
Qaraqe said that Abbas rejected Netanyahu's offer, demanding instead that the prisoners be released at once and not over various stages. 
"Abu Mazen (Abbas) demanded that all 123 prisoners incarcerated in Israel since before the Oslo Accords be released simultaneously," said Qaraqe. "Abu Mazen rejected Netanyahu's offer and called on the Israeli government to implement past agreements made with the ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who promised to release numerous prisoners."
If the IMEMC report is correct, it would appear that Abbas is now accepting a deal that he already rejected, right?