Abbas: Olmert promised us release of more prisoners

PA official in Ramallah tells the 'Post' that Abbas had repeatedly asked Olmert to free top Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa’dat.

mahmoud abbas_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
mahmoud abbas_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that then prime minister Ehud Olmert had promised him that Israel would release Palestinian prisoners after IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was freed from Hamas captivity.
“Olmert told me that after a [prisoner swap] deal is completed with Hamas, he would give me something equal in numbers and quality,” Abbas said in an interview with an Egyptian TV station.
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Abbas did not give names of prisoners that Olmert, prime minister from 2006-2009, allegedly agreed to release. However, a PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas had repeatedly asked Olmert to free top Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa’dat, secretary- general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
“The release of these two men and many other prisoners would enhance the standing of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas,” the official said. “It’s a pity that Israel did not release them back then.”
Abbas told the TV station that he was now expecting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fulfill the promise made by Olmert.
Abbas hailed the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas as a “huge achievement” for all Palestinians.
“The release of any Palestinian from occupation prisons is an achievement for us,” he said. “It’s our top priority that they return to their families.”
He added that he does not feel frustrated because of Hamas’s success in securing the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
“A gain for Hamas is a gain for all of us,” he explained. “The release of the prisoners is a gain.”
Abbas said that the issue of the Palestinian prisoners would be on the table when Israel and the PA sit to talk about final-status issues.
He reiterated his readiness to reconcile with Hamas and form a Palestinian unity government. He said that he was planning to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal next month to discuss ways of ending the Fatah-Hamas dispute.
The PA president also reiterated his opposition to “armed resistance” against Israel. “I reject the military solution, but we are with a peaceful and popular resistance,” Abbas said.
“Hamas captured a soldier and managed to hold on to him all these years, and that’s good. But this is not a form of resistance because we lost a lot in the Gaza Strip and paid a very heavy price while Schalit was there.”