Israel has decided to raise the number of prisoners that it will release from 82 to 104 as a condition for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.Israel increased the number of people to be freed after the Palestinians threatened that they would not attend the opening meeting of talks that is scheduled to take place next week in Washington according to the report that cited a source with knowledge of the negotiations. Some of the prisoners to be released were Israeli-Arab prisoners that in the past Israel had refused to free, according to the source. The decision to release Israeli-Arab prisoners as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians contravenes Israeli policy not to allow the Palestinian Authority to intervene in Israeli-Arab affairs, the report stressed. Ami Palmor, head of the pardons department of the Justice Ministry told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee last week, that the 82 prisoners Israel intended to release were all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who were sentenced for their crimes before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. It was revealed in the Knesset briefing that all of the prisoners to be released had blood on their hands and were serving life sentences.Abbas says Israel to make prisoner announcement
PalestinianAuthority President Mahmoud Abbas said "happy news" about thePalestinian prisoners would be announced Sunday, Israel Radio reported quoting theXinhua News Agency.
"Youshould follow the Israeli media tomorrow, because there will be happy announcements with regard to theprisoners," Abbas said at a press conference in Ramallah on Saturday.
Abbasconfirmed that the peace talks would be officially resumed on Tuesday and that formerUS ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk was chosen by the White House as the USrepresentative to the talks.
Tothose Palestinians opposed to the resumption of talks he said, "There werealso those who were opposed to the move to seek UN recognition and as at it turned out that oppositionwas unfounded." Abbas wasreferring to the Palestinian Authority's2012 decision to seek non-member observer status at the UN.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will take the decision to free the prisoners before the cabinet on Sunday, Israeli officials said on Saturday.Netanyahu has already agreed to free the prisoners, but wanted cabinet approval to help overcome qualms among Israelis about freeing inmates convicted of involvement in lethal attacks, Israeli officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.His plan calls for releasing them over at least four stages stretched over a nine-month period, the officials said.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon on Saturday called on fellow Likud ministers to vote against the release of Palestinian security prisoners.In a letter addressed to Likud ministers, Danon wrote, "This sets a future standard for Israel of far-reaching compromises in the face of ridiculous requests from the other side."Danon added, "I call on you to vote against releasing prisoners, but in favor of negotiations without pre-conditions."The deputy defense minister stated that there is a "consensus" among Likud members against "the crazy release of dozens of terrorists with the blood of hundreds of Israelis on their hands."Danon ended his letter with a call for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from prison in the United States.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.