PM Olmert Plans to Release 250 Fatah Terrorists From Jail
During his concluding speech at the Sharm El-Sheikh four-way conference on Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his decision to release 250 terrorists from Israeli prison.
Candidates for release are those whose terrorist activities did not end in known deaths, and who were imprisoned for terror-related activities on behalf of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. The released individuals will have to sign a commitment to refrain from further terrorist activities after their release.
Addressing his remarks to the PA Arabs, Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel is just as sensitive to the issue of its kidnapped soldiers as the residents of the PA are to the issue of their relatives serving time in Israeli jails as convicted terrorists. Olmert mentioned Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas, and called his Hamas captors "inhumane" and "emotional extortioners, an example of which we saw today" in the release of a recording of the captive IDF soldier.
Prime Minister Olmert then announced, "Out of sensitivity to the matter of the prisoners, I decided today to bring before the government of Israel a decision according to which we will release 250 prisoners, members of Fatah, without blood on their hands, and who will commit themselves to refrain from further involvement in terrorism. I do this because I understand the importance of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority."
He added that the intended mass terrorist release had another purpose, as well: "It is important that every Palestinian know that whoever is prepared to have peaceful and conciliatory relations with us will receive our hand outstretched in peace."
In addition, Olmert promised to transfer withheld tax revenues to the PA,
Candidates for release are those whose terrorist activities did not end in known deaths.
to make "meaningful" improvement in the freedom of movement of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria, and to renew commercial ties with that population. Israel will not cut basic supplies to Gaza, either, the Prime Minister avowed, saying, "We will not punish the Gaza population for for the actions of the Hamas leaders."
According to Prime Minister Olmert, the new Abbas- and Fatah-led government of the PA "recognizes Israel's right to exist," accepts the "two states for two peoples" solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, "opposes terrorism," and "includes no representatives of terrorist organizations." Therefore, Olmert explained, "it is a government with which we can proceed to a regional solution." To that end, he continued, "I agreed with Abu Mazen (Abbas) to meet at least once every two weeks. We agreed on continuing the talks that will bring about, as soon as possible, the advent of a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel."
Olmert said that he is, "by nature, optimistic, and precisely in these days I see an opportunity, a way to promote the region's diplomatic processes."
In addition to Olmert and Abbas, the Sharm El-Sheikh summit included Jordan's King Abdullah II and the host, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.