Panel to approve list of first Palestinian prisoners to be freed

State to release identities of first 26 prisoners to be freed; prisoners incarcerated for attacks before signing of Oslo Accords.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting July 2013 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting July 2013 370
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
The ministerial panel responsible for deciding how to conduct the graduated release of Palestinian security prisoners as part of a gesture for resuming direct peace talks is expected to convene on Sunday and approve a list of 26 prisoners to be released on Tuesday.
The 26 prisoners will constitute the first of four stages in releasing 104 Palestinian prisoners who were incarcerated for attacks that took place before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
The "Panel of Five" (consisting of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry) was authorized by the government to decide on how to conduct the release.
The Palestinian Authority hopes to receive the names of the prisoners tomorrow after the committee holds its final hearing.
Last Sunday, the cabinet approved the release of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in stages over the next nine months according to progress in the talks.
According to state officials, the first prisoners to be released have served the longest sentences, and in many cases only a short amount of time remains until their sentences are complete.
The idea behind the gradual release, according to Israeli officials, is to ensure that the Palestinians uphold their commitments during the initial nine months of negotiations not to take unilateral actions during this period against Israel in the UN or at other international forums, and not to immediately walk away from the negotiating table.
The state on Wednesday asked the High Court of Justice to uphold its decision to release the prisoners, including some of the worst murderers with “blood on their hands” in custody to the Palestinian Authority.
The state’s request was filed in response to a recent petition by the Almagor Terror Victims Association to block the prisoner release deal by preventing President Shimon Peres and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon from issuing pardons.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held their first peace talks in nearly three years in Washington on July 30 in US-mediated efforts to end the conflict of more than six decades.
"Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming Aug. 14 in Jerusalem and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho (in the West Bank)," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a briefing.
On both sides, the renewed peace negotiations have been met with skepticism and at times even anger, particularly regarding Israel's decision to release the Palestinian prisoners as a prelude to the talks.
However Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has defended the decision recently saying "this moment is not easy for me...but there are times when difficult decisions must be made for the good of the state, and this is one of those times."
Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.