Cabinet to vote on prisoner release

Ministers to decide on release of some 500 Palestinians, far short of the 2,000 the PA wants.

prisoner freed hug 224.8 (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)
prisoner freed hug 224.8
(photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)
The Cabinet will vote Monday on releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners ahead of a US-hosted Mideast conference, a government official said Saturday. Ministers will be asked to approve the release of some 500 prisoners, far short of the 2,000 inmates the Palestinians want to see freed ahead of the conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Palestinian officials say a release is only meaningful if Israel eases its criteria and frees longtime inmates who were involved in violent attacks, instead of short-term inmates who have little time left to serve. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has accepted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's invitation to attend the Annapolis parley scheduled to take place at the end of November, Channel 2 reported Friday evening. Regarding the possible prisoner release, Channel 2 reported that an Israeli team that returned from the US on Friday said that both the US and Saudi Arabia were pressing Israel to free far more Palestinian security prisoners than Olmert has announced he plans to release ahead of Annapolis. Furthermore, a senior official told The Jerusalem Post that the defense establishment was examining the ramifications of a proposal being drafted to release several hundred prisoners per month after Annapolis. 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.