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Netanyahu ignores US pressure to release Palestinian prisoners

February 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

The US Secretary of State was not entirely successful in his contacts with the Palestinian and the Israeli leaderships regarding the resumption of the peace process, Israel’s Maariv newspaper said on Wednesday. John Kerry could only get agreement on a number of economic projects from the Israelis. The proposed projects are aimed at reinforcing the Palestinian economy and are mainly in Area C, where Israel maintains full control under the terms of the Oslo Agreement.

Maariv suggested that the projects agreed by Netanyahu would not be enough to bring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. For that, the Palestinians want 123 prisoners held by Israel since before Oslo was signed in 1993 to be released. Kerry apparently exerted a lot of pressure on Netanyahu to release the prisoners but to no avail. He had hoped to have at least some of them released in time for “Palestinian Prisoner Day”, which is due to be commemorated soon.

It is claimed that Israeli intelligence officials have recommended the release of dozens of these long-term prisoners, most of them now very old and sick. They would, reported Maariv, pose no security threat to Israel. Nevertheless, the best that Netanyahu will do, said his office, is to have a gradual release process but only after talks with the Palestinians resume.

According to Kerry, Palestinian-Israeli talks have to discuss security arrangements. “We have to work on the basis of 1967 borders and land swaps,” he said, “but both sides have to consider the importance of security arrangements beside the border issue.” He added that President Barack Obama believes that any peace agreement must fulfil the security needs of Israel. Given that such “needs” are open to constant interpretation by the Israelis themselves and usually involve more colonisation of Palestinian land, said one London-based commentator, this means that no “peace agreement” is ever likely to be achieved.