Israel to again couple Palestinian prisoner release with new construction plans beyond Green Line

Move likely to anger Palestinians, spark condemnation from US, EU; PMO "disappointed" Abbas has not condemned terror attacks.

A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement (photo credit: Reuters)
A stop sign is seen outside a West Bank Jewish settlement
(photo credit: Reuters)
In a move likely to spark Palestinian anger and international condemnation, Israel intends to announce plans for construction beyond the Green Line next week, soon after the release of another group of Palestinian prisoners, government officials said Wednesday night.
The officials would not say where the planned building would take place or how many units would be involved.
Under the agreements Israel reached with the US and the Palestinian Authority in July, which enabled the current round of negotiations, the government is scheduled to release on Sunday a third batch of 26 Palestinian terrorists who were convicted of attacks before the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israel has agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners by the end of the nine-month negotiating period, and has already freed half that number.
The decision to announce plans for more construction beyond the Green Line comes despite US and European appeals not to do so, and warnings that such a move could torpedo the talks.
Israel’s position is that it made no commitment in July to freeze settlement construction, and that both the US and the Palestinians were aware that construction would continue.
Settlement construction announcements accompanied both previous prisoner releases – a move widely viewed as a way to make the unpopular release of the convicted terrorists more palatable to the right-wing elements inside the coalition.
Most – but not all – of the units announced then were for Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the 1967 lines, and for communities inside the large settlement blocs.
Announcing the construction plans, one official said, did not in any way violate the agreement that had led to the renewal of the talks with the Palestinians. He said Israel was “strictly abiding by” that agreement.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon addressed the upcoming prisoner release and the settlement construction during a tour of a Givati Brigade drill in the Binyamin region, saying that “we are not happy about releasing prisoners.”
“I’ve said in the past that releasing prisoners stems from wider considerations. We are [facing] the third release,” he said, “and we’ll hold talks in the right places to decide whether and whom to release. As to the construction, I think it is our right to build, and certainly according to the understandings and agreements we have with the Americans.”
Ya’alon, along with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri – who is a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – make up the ministerial committee that in the coming days will draw up the list of prisoners to be released.
Addressing rising Palestinian violence in the West Bank, Ya’alon said the attacks were not the work of organized groups, but of individual attackers, like the man who stabbed policeman Rami Ravid next to the Highway 60 junction earlier this week.
“We’ll know how to deal with this, whether by boosting forces [in the West Bank] or by getting to every terrorist and holding him to account,” he stated.
The defense minister said Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks were sparking incitement. Since the talks began at the end of July, six Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks, compared to only one terror fatality from January through July. He said it was clear these attacks “are the results of incitement,” and he blamed the Palestinian Authority for incitement to hatred against Israel.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev was even more blunt, saying “the terrorist attacks against Israelis over the last few days are a direct result of the incitement and hatred propagated in Palestinian schools and media.”
He said Israel was “disappointed that so far [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas has not condemned these acts of terrorism as one would expect from a partner in peace talks.”