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Israel will not release Palestinian prisoners if Abbas does not extend talks

The Israeli occupation authorities told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that the last batch of veteran prisoners, slated to be released on 29 March, would not go ahead unless he accepts extending the talks beyond the April deadline.

On her Facebook page, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was quoted as saying: “In order to advance serious negotiations, we will all need to take decisions and prove we are determined to reach an agreement and real peace. That burden of proof is also on the Palestinians’ shoulders.”

She continued: “Accordingly, we will examine the issue of the prisoners, meaning that the key to the cells of the Palestinian prisoners is also to be found in the hands of Abu-Mazen (Abbas) and the decisions he will take in the coming days.”

The diplomatic correspondent of the Israeli daily newspaper Makor Rishon quoted on Twitter a senior Israeli official candidly saying that: “Without an explicit commitment by Abu-Mazen to extend the talks, there will not be a fourth wave of” prisoners releases.

Israel has so far released 78 out of 104 Palestinian prisoners who have been in jail since before the Oslo Accords. They have been released in three batches with the fourth batch, which is due to be released on 29 March, still pending approval by the Israeli cabinet.

American officials are afraid that if Israel decides not to release the prisoners then this might undermine the peace talks and push the PA to take stricter steps.

However, the Israeli official explained that the Israeli government is afraid that Abbas will not extend the negotiations beyond the looming deadline after the prisoners are released.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a peace deal with the Palestinians needs at least one more year to negotiate according to the suggested American principles.

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