Media reports in Israel claim that the government is going to vote on the Palestine prisoner release plan prior to the first round of talks with the Palestinians expected to be held in Washington next week. A vote is due before Justice Minister Tzipi Livni meets with senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Although there are 103 Palestinians being held in Israel since before the signing of the Oslo Accord, only 82 will be considered for release. The others are either Palestinian-Israeli citizens or Israel's intelligence agencies refuse to allow them to be released on security grounds.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the reports said, has not decided whether to put the issue to a vote in the reduced security cabinet or the ministerial council. It is noted that he prefers to go to the ministerial council for this.
Officials say that the prisoners would be released in four stages, depending on the progress of the talks with the Palestinian Authority. According to Haaretz, it will be timed at the discretion of the prime minister. Prisoners' names will be publicised 48 hours before the expected release date to give time for objections to be lodged at the Supreme Court. The speed of the release would depend on the "progress" of the talks, the unnamed officials pointed out.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian Authority official said that if it became clear that President Mahmoud Abbas had offered concessions over the prisoners' issue there would be an angry response against him. In the same vein, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club threatened on Monday to undermine the talks if they start without the release of the pre-Oslo prisoners. "That would be an unacceptable breach of the bases of negotiations," a statement said.