Just prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that his government would not release any more Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist acts as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday.
Last year, Israel had agreed to a four-stage release of prisoners as part of the terms for the resumption of peace negotiations with Abbas's government, but the final stage was canceled after mutual recriminations between Jerusalem and Ramallah over the breakdown of the talks.
During his appearance before the Knesset panel in early July, Netanyahu commended Abbas' public condemnation of the abduction and murder
of three yeshiva students by Hamas operatives near the West Bank town of Hebron
Nonetheless, the premier is quoted by Channel 2 as saying that "Abu Mazen (Abbas' nom de guerre) will not receive another release of prisoners."
"Abu Mazen made some important statements in condemning the abduction," Netanyahu said. "But those statements contrast with the celebratory welcome that he staged for released terrorists
, the salaries that he pays them, and the incitement [sanctioned by the PA]."
The release of prisoners and the freeze on construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been longstanding Palestinian conditions for a resumption of peace talks. With the Netanyahu government opposed to both measures, it is difficult to envision a return to negotiations in the near future, according to observers.
Netanyahu's comments to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is the latest indication that the government has no intention of embarking on any new diplomatic initiative as it relates to the Palestinian question. Abbas will seek Arab League approval next week for his diplomatic initiative
that calls for a nine-month negotiation window that will eventually lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within three years.
Abbas is scheduled to present his plan to Arab League foreign ministers on September 7.
Details of the Palestinian leader's peace plan was revealed on Tuesday by the former religious endowments minister, Mahmoud al-Habash.
According to the plan, Israel and the PA would begin discussions on the borders of a future Palestinian state. The two sides would devote three months to the issue.
In the second stage of talks, the parties would focus on the remaining core issues, including the future status of refugees, control of Jerusalem, the settlements, security, and water.
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