Abbas R 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The government plans to release Palestinian petty criminals later this month to
complete the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange, not any high-profile Fatah
security prisoners as a gesture to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, officials said on
Under the Egyptian-mediated prisoner swap in October that led
to Schalit’s release, 477 “heavy” security prisoners and terrorists whose names
were agreed upon by Israel and Hamas were released in the first stage of the
deal. Another 550 prisoners, of Israel’s choosing, will be released in the
second stage, expected to take place on December 18.
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Numerous calls from
world leaders have come into Jerusalem urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
to use the opportunity to release Fatah prisoners and build up Abbas’s stature
on the Palestinian street. Because of Abbas’s continued refusal to enter into
direct talks with Israel – unless Jerusalem stops all construction beyond the
Green Line – those entreaties are for the most part falling on deaf
“We will release car thieves, not make any gestures to Abbas,” one
government official said. He said that the list of prisoners to be released is
being drawn up by the Justice Ministry, and will be approved by the Prime
Government sources said that with Abbas continuing to
stay away from the talks and waging an aggressive diplomatic campaign against
Israel throughout the world, there is no reason at his point to reward him with
any goodwill gestures.
The first phase of the Schalit deal on October 18
led to an immediate boost for Hamas’s popularity, leading some to argue that
Netanyahu went through with the swap to harm Abbas in retaliation for his
statehood bid at the UN in September.
Government sources, however, have
denied the charge. One senior official said that while getting back at Abbas was
not the reason for the deal, Netanyahu – because of Abbas’s policies – did not
feel bound to take into consideration what this would do to his overall
The official said had the Palestinian leader not gone to the UN
and not continued to refuse to return to talks, more consideration would likely
have been given before the deal to how it would affect Abbas.