Olmert Abbas 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement that he plans to release 400 security prisoners ahead of the peace conference in Annapolis, the defense establishment is recommending that the government refrain from making goodwill gestures to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until after the summit, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Shin Bet Security Agency officials have also warned that Abbas might be tempted to "blow up" the summit under the pretext that Israel was not making enough concessions, the Post has also learned.
"If he does this, he will secure himself a place in history as a Palestinian leader who, like Yasser Arafat, was unwilling to make concessions to Israel," a senior defense official said, adding, however, that the Shin Bet scenario was just speculation and was not based on concrete intelligence.
The goodwill gestures being considered pending a successful outcome to the summit include releasing prisoners, removing roadblocks and transferring additional territory and West Bank villages to PA security control. The government is also considering a freeze in settlement construction.
"There is no need to make concessions ahead of the summit," a senior security official said. "The Palestinians will quickly forget what we gave them before the summit and it is important to create incentives for Abbas to make the summit work."
According to a senior official, the defense establishment is examining the ramifications of a proposal being drafted to release several hundred prisoners per month after the Annapolis conference. The idea behind the plan, which has yet to be presented to Olmert, is that quiet on the "Palestinian street" - required for fruitful negotiations - can be achieved by releasing a significant number of prisoners every month.
"If the summit is successful and negotiations ensue, then it might be necessary to keep the Palestinians happy and quiet," an official said. "One way to do that is to release prisoners."
There are more than 10,000 Palestinian security detainees in Israeli prisons. The releases would be dependent on a cessation of terrorism and a commitment by the freed prisoners not to return to terrorism.
"If these conditions are not met, then we won't release additional prisoners," the senior official said.
The defense establishment is considering a request by the PA to transfer armored jeeps to the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. Earlier this month, the PA deployed 300 policemen in Nablus, and has close to 20,000 policemen in the West Bank.
According to defense officials, the PA security forces are being effective in cracking down on Hamas in Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm, and as a result the terrorist group has begun to transfer its operations out of the larger cities and into nearby villages.
The Shin Bet and the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories favor transferring the armored vehicles to the PA forces, while the IDF's Military Intelligence and Planning Division oppose the idea.
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