Israeli newspaper Maariv revealed on Monday that US Secretary of State John Kerry has decided to ask Israel to postpone the release of the third batch of Palestinian prisoners due to be released at the end of this month.
Maariv reported that Kerry wants to delay the release of the prisoners to put more pressure on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, forcing him to agree to more concessions in the ongoing talks with Israel.
According to the newspaper, Palestinian sources confirmed that Kerry had informed the Palestinian negotiating team about his decision, which comes in the wake of Abbas' refusal of the American plan regarding security arrangements in the Jordan Valley. Kerry had proposed the plan, which would allow Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, to Abbas during his visit to the West Bank last Thursday, but Abbas refused it.
However Palestinian Prisoners Minister Isa Qaraqe told a local Palestinian news agency that the PA has not yet officially received Kerry's decision to postpone the release of the prisoners, and he stressed that the issue is nothing more than "an Israeli dirty trick."
Qaraqe explained that Israel does this just to deny Palestinian prisoners their right to freedom. He also pointed out that Israel failed to implement all the terms of the Abbas-Kerry agreement on the resumption of the peace talks.
Israeli radio reported that Kerry is insistent on getting a joint Palestinian-Israeli statement to announce a breakthrough in the peace process by next month.