The ministerial committee tasked with selecting the list of Palestinian security
prisoners to be released is scheduled to meet on Saturday night to decide on
those to be freed late Monday night, in the third out of four such
Soon after the prisoner release, Israel is expected to announce
plans for construction beyond the Green Line.
Channel 2 reported that the
announcement will include 600 new housing units in Jerusalem and 800 in the
settlement blocs. In addition, the reports said, planning processes will be set
in motion for another 1,000 units.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat
responded to Israel’s intentions to announce construction plans by labeling
settlement construction a “war crime.” Erekat said if Israel goes ahead with the
plans, the PA leadership should apply for membership in 63 international
organizations, including the International Criminal Court.
those who fear the ICC should “stop perpetrating war crimes, including
settlement construction, which is a war crime.”
Referring to the Israeli
plans, Erekat said, “We strongly condemn this and consider it damaging for the
One government official responded by saying that going to an international body would be a direct PA
contravention of the agreement reached with Israel and the US, which paved the
way in July to the current round of negotiations. On the contrary, he said,
Israel made no commitment to freeze settlement construction, and was
“scrupulously” upholding the agreements.
The US administration has made
clear that while they are opposed to settlement construction, these types of
announcements do not take anyone by surprise or contravene the July agreement to
restart the talks.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On characterized the
announcement of building now as “giving the American administration the
“There does not need to be a connection between building in the
territories and releasing prisoners,” she said. “As long as there is no
agreement with the Palestinians on the future of the settlements, expanding
settlements is adding insult to injury.”
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin also said
that settlement construction and prisoner releases should not be
“Construction in Judea and Samaria in exchange for terrorists
perverts the value of settlement,” he wrote on Twitter.
ministerial committee draws up the names of the prisoners – all convicted
terrorists who carried out their activities before the 1993 Oslo Accords – the
families of the victims will have 48 hours to petition against their release to
the Supreme Court.
It is highly unlikely the court will
The Supreme Court rejected a petition on Thursday brought by
five members of the Schijveschuurder family – whose parents and three siblings
were among the 15 people killed in the 2001 suicide attack at the Sbarro
restaurant in Jerusalem – to reconsider releasing another batch of
“With all due understanding to the pain of the petitioners,
their petition does not raise any legal ground for our intervention,” the court
ruled. “The claims have been raised and ruled on in the past regarding the same
Under the agreement drawn up in July, and confirmed
by the government, Israel is to release a total of 104 prisoners, in four
different groups, during the nine months of negotiations.
Two groups of
26 prisoners each have already been let go.
The ministerial committee to
decide on the names includes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister
Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former Shin Bet
Netanyahu, meanwhile, addressed the diplomatic process and the
uptick in terrorism during a speech at a graduation ceremony for new IAF cadets
at the Hatzerim Air Force base in the South.
“We know that in any peace
agreement, if it will be reached, Israel needs to be the one to defend itself,
by itself,” he said, in an apparent reference to his demand for a long-term IDF
presence along the Jordan River.
“We know that only in this way will the
peace agreement be upheld, and only in this way will we be able to defend
ourselves in case the peace is not upheld, something that unfortunately happens
in the Middle East.”
The prime minister, speaking before two rockets were
fired from Gaza Thursday evening, said Israel held Hamas responsible for all
attacks from the Gaza Strip. “We will hit those who attack us, and also those
who give them cover. No one will have immunity,” he said.
Palestinian Authority on Thursday denied that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and
Netanyahu have been conducting secret talks.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a
spokesman for Abbas, said the Palestinians were not conducting any
behind-the-scenes negotiations with Israel.
The denial came in response
to a report in Yediot Aharonot, which revealed that Netanyahu and Abbas have
been maintaining a secret channel of talks for several years. According to the
report, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s confidant, has been traveling to
London from time to time and meeting with one of Abbas’s
According to the report, the channel was especially important
during the first four years of Netanyahu’s current term in office, when there
were no negotiations with the Palestinians.
This back-channel diplomacy
included an exchange of messages and ideas and was aimed at solving problems
troubling both sides, the report said.
A source told the paper that
Bassel Aqel, a Palestinian businessman living in London, may have been Abbas’s
representative to the secret talks. It said that there were three goals to
back-channel diplomacy: solving daily problems on the ground; preparing the
ground for a major diplomatic breakthrough; and creating an impression among
those involved in the secret talks that there was an interest in making
political progress while the formal negotiations were deadlocked.
told a delegate from Tel Aviv University’s Institute for International Security
Studies he met in Ramallah on Thursday that the report was not
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office would neither confirm nor
deny the report.
Abbas also told the INSS delegation that while he did
not in principle reject the idea of a “framework agreement,” the period of time
between which the sides move from the current situation to a permanent agreement
must not be more than three years.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this