Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinian Authority (PA), said on Tuesday that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s behavior will determine whether Israel goes through with the release of the fourth batch of terrorists that it agreed to release.
Livni, who spoke at a conference and was quoted by AFP, made the comments after a senior diplomatic source said earlier Tuesday that if it turns out that talks with PA have reached a dead end, Israel will reconsider the terrorist release.
She said that Abbas would have to show he is serious about negotiating peace in order for the terrorist release to go ahead.
"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," Livni was quoted on her Facebook page as saying.
"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," she added.
Livni denied she was trying to finger point, but said she was raising the issue "before decisions are taken" as the two sides mull whether to move into a second phase of U.S.-led negotiations.
Earlier Tuesday, Economy Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett called for a discussion to be held in the Cabinet as soon as possible, regarding the idea of cancelling the fourth tranche in the terrorist release altogether.
“Now that it is clear to everyone that there is no advance in the negotiations – all there is is the firing of missiles [from Gaza] and an escalation by Abu Mazen on his side – I think it is time for the Cabinet to discuss the matter of the fourth tranche in order to try and find the logic [in a release] when Abu Mazen is already saying – 'I just want the terrorists and then I will derail the negotiations,” said Bennett.
"So, we will give him terrorists just so he can derail the negotiations? What is the logic in this?” he added.
On Sunday it was reported that Abbas is planning to capitalize on Israel’s releasing terrorist and demand that it release two arch-terrorists, including senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, in exchange for his agreeing to extend talks beyond April.
In response, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) called on Israel to refuse to release Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for multiple murders.
“Abu Mazen will stand in the White House today and demand the release of Barghouti and other terrorists in exchange for continuing the talks. Israel needs to respond in just one word: no,” Katz declared in a post to Facebook.
“Barghouti is a cowardly mass murderer who sent ‘shaheeds’ to blow themselves up among innocent civilians during the Second Intifada,” Katz recalled. “He should rot in jail until he dies.”