Senior PA aide: Israel won't spoil our celebration of prisoners release

President Mahmoud Abbas, PA officials plan to attend reception despite late hour; issued invitations to families of prisoners.

August 13, 2013 21:46
2 minute read.
Palestinians in Ramallah welcome back released prisoners August 13, 2013.

Palestinians celebrate prisoner release 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Palestinian Authority officials said that despite Israel's intention to free 26 prisoners late Tuesday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas would head celebrations marking the release of the inmates.

"We won't allow Israel to disrupt our plans to celebrate the release of our prisoners," said a senior aide to Abbas. "We have issued invitations to the families of the prisoners to come to the [presidential compound] Mukata to welcome their sons."

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The aide said that Abbas and top PA officials were determined to attend the reception for the prisoners "even if they are released after midnight."

Abbas is hoping to take advantage of the prisoner release to boost his standing among Palestinians and gain support for his controversial decision to resume peace talks with Israel.

Palestinians in Ramallah, meanwhile, appeared to be divided over the prisoner release. Some called the decision to free 26 prisoners as insufficient and a "bribe" to extract more political concessions from the PA leadership, while others welcomed the move as a positive step toward peace.

Palestinian political analyst Fuad Abu Hajlah said that Israel and the US have come up with a new formula for peace: Prisoners for Settlers.

Referring to recent Israeli decisions to build new housing units in West bank settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods, Abu Hajlah remarked: "Each one of the 26 Palestinian prisoners is worth 120 new Jewish housing units. This means that the release of nearly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners would require the construction of 1,200,000 new housing units."

Abu Hajlah criticized the PA leadership for agreeing to return to the negotiating table with Israel while construction continues in the settlements and east Jerusalem.

Although the PA leadership has described the release of the 26 prisoners as a big achievement, many Palestinians voiced disappointment over the list.

Wasel Abu Yusef, member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that while Palestinians welcomed the release of any prisoner from Israeli jail, the list of 26 inmates was "frustrating."

He also expressed frustration over the decision to release the prisoners in four stages, adding that the PA leadership should not have agreed to this.

"The biggest problem with regards to the prisoners is that Israel alone decides on the names and criterion for such deals," Abu Yusef complained.

Palestinian blogger Mohamed Abu Allan pointed out that two of the 26 prisoners were expected to complete their prison terms before the end of this year. He named the two as Jamal Abdel nab, who was expected to be released in December and Samir Murtaji, whose term ends in October.

In a related development, families of Israeli Arab and Jerusalem prisoners protested against the exclusion of their sons from the US-sponsored deal between Israel and the PA.

The families held a press conference in east Jerusalem where they expressed disappointment over the refusal of Israel to release their sons.

Nasser Kos, head of the Prisoners Club in east Jerusalem, said that while Palestinians in the West Bank would be celebrating the release of their sons, the families of the Israeli Arab and Jerusalem inmates have no reason to be joyful.

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