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PA Calls Israeli Proposal to Release More Terrorists 'Blackmail'

Israel's proposal to tie 4th phase of terrorist release to extension of talks is extortion, PA official claims.
By AFP and Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/31/2014, 6:39 PM

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas
AFP photo

The Palestinian Authority has rejected Israel's proposal to extend the crumbling peace talks beyond April 29, saying it was akin to "blackmail," an official in Ramallah told AFP on Monday.

"Israel is practicing a policy of blackmail and linking its agreement to releasing the fourth batch of prisoners with the Palestinians accepting to extend the negotiations," the official claimed, following a late-night meeting in Jerusalem between the two negotiating teams.

His remarks were made as US Secretary of State John Kerry was heading to Israel from Paris in a bid to prevent the collapse of the crisis-hit talks.

Israel refused to release the fourth batch of Palestinian Arab terrorists over the weekend, after PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat indicated that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was only staying in talks at all to see some of the most dangerous terrorists released. 

The PA, meanwhile, has issued an ultimatum of its own, saying that unless the prisoners are freed, they won't even discuss a possible extension of peace talks - but Israel has refused to release the terrorists without first securing a Palestinian commitment to continue the talks beyond April 29.

"Israel made a proposal which was refused by the Palestinians," a PA official told AFP, describing the proposal as "weak".

In exchange for the PA's agreement to continue the talks, Israel had offered to free the fourth batch of detainees and to releasing another 420
others, according to the source. Economics Minister Naftali Bennett has previously responded to that report by vowing he would not allow any further releases of terrorists.

But the PA protested after discovering that the agreement would not include freeing some of the Palestinian Arab world's most infamous terrorists, including major terrorist leaders Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat.

"Partial settlement freeze"?

The PA also slammed the proposal for not including several of the last-minute preconditions it demanded over the past month.

"The [Israeli] proposal includes a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank but excludes east Jerusalem, and would include continued building in areas where tenders have already been published," a PA official complained to AFP.  He accused Israel of trying to string out the negotiations indefinitely while continuing to build facts on the ground.

The PA has already formally refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state throughout talks, stating that "the Arab states will never recognize a Jewish state." 

In addition, the PA Chairman will reportedly only agree to extend talks if Israel allows a "right of return" for Palestinian Arabs, free terrorist leaders, and withdraw from Judea and Samaria. 

Abbas has repeatedly said that unless all his preconditions are met, there will be no peace with Israel.