The expected total release of 104 Palestinian security prisoners as a gesture for resuming peace talks "is part of the price for the pursuit of peace," Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, said in light of Israel's release of the first group of 26 prisoners overnight Tuesday.
Israel and the Palestinians were scheduled to begin substantive talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday following Israel's release of 11 Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank and 15 to their homes in Gaza.
"Of the 104 prisoners expected to be released, I was personally involved
with or commanded the capture of 92, so these moments are not easy for
me nor for the families (of the victims of their crimes)," Peri, a
former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head told Army Radio on
Peri sits on the five-member committee responsible for determining which prisoners are released, and when.
In light of Israel's gesture to the Palestinian Authority, Deputy Defense Minister Danny (Likud Beytenu) condemned the release of security prisoners as a moral error ahead of talks.
Expectations surrounding peace negotiations were extremely low on the Israeli side as the Palestinians warned that Israeli announcements of settlement plans could torpedo the talks.
Ahead of the second round of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks slated to take place Wednesday afternoon, Danon warned of limitations members of the ruling faction would make in light of a peace agreement.
Danon told Israel Radio that many in the Likud faction would not allow chief negotiation Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to lead Israel to an accord that would include a withdrawal of Jewish residents from territories beyond the Green Line.
The Construction and Housing Ministry announced Sunday that it intends
to publish tenders for 1,187 new Jewish homes over the pre-1967 lines,
and the Interior Ministry advanced plans on Monday for 900 new Jewish
home units next to the Gilo neighborhood.
Herb Keinon and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
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