Following a report that the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would not go ahead this weekend, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) slammed the Palestinians for failing to make concessions in the peace process and for only being interested in releasing terrorists.
"It is clear to all sides that the negotiations are leading nowhere and it good that
the Palestinians understand that Israel will not make it concessions without receiving anything
in return," Danon said.
"The true face of the Palestinians was revealed when they declared that their sole aim was to free terrorists," he added.
Israel has reportedly informed the Palestinian Authority that it will not release a fourth and final batch of prisoners expected to be freed as part of peace negotiations, a Palestinian official said Friday.
"The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29," AFP quoted Fatah official Jibril Rajoub as saying.
Rajoub charged that "Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements".
As a gesture for resuming diplomatic negotiations in July, Israel said it would free 104 Palestinian terrorists convicted before the 1993 Oslo accords. In exchange, the Palestinians pledged to halt their diplomatic efforts to seek full recognitions a member state in the United Nations.
"Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation," stressed Rajoub, who also serves as the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association.
Israel has so far release 78 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. Jerusalem would have needed to publicly release on Wednesday the names of the terrorists it planned to free to allow for a 48-hour appeals period – not including Shabbat – ahead of a Saturday night release.
The Fatah official slammed Israel's said refusal to release the 26 remaining prisoners as a "slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts".
The Israeli government had no immediate response to the report.
Earlier Friday, US State Department envoy Martin Indyk met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the issue of the prisoner release. A PA official said the meeting has ended without result.
Abbas was slated to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the coming week following a meeting last Wednesday in Jordan that also yielded little progress.
According to Palestinian media, the Palestinians were expecting Israel to release 14 Arab Israelis among the last group prisoners to be freed.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, made clear that all five Yisrael Beytenu cabinet ministers would vote against releasing Arab Israelis convicted of terrorism if the idea came to the cabinet for a vote.
Liberman’s announcement could stand as an obstacle for the list to pass the cabinet. The full cabinet does not, however, have to vote on it again if no Israelis are among those to be freed.
Israeli officials have said in recent weeks that although the Palestinians are pressing Israel to include Arab Israelis, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not specifically commit himself to do so back in July. Washington has supported this position.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.