Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to free 82 terrorist prisoners in the course of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, according to Channel 10. Most if not all of the terrorists were convicted of murder.
The prisoners are reportedly to be released in four waves, once every two or four months, as the negotiations advance.
According to the report, Netanyahu may prefer not to bring the release of terrorists to the full Cabinet for approval, but rather to the smaller “Security and Diplomacy Cabinet.” However, Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, who is a member of the smaller forum as well, may insist on bringing the matter to the larger forum.
There are reports that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has deposited a letter with the PA in which he states that negotiations will be based on the idea of a return to pre-1967 borders. However, this is denied in Israel.
Analysts said that neither Bayit Yehudi nor stalwart nationalists in Likud are likely to bolt from the Coalition despite their distatste for the negotiations, because they are replaceable. Labor Chairperson MK Shelly Yachimovich has said that “In all matters related to a breakthrough to a diplomatic arrangement, we will be a strong security net for Netanyahu against the right wing elements in his government.”
Netanyahu addressed the subject of negotiations in the course of a ceremony marking the 100th birthday of former prime minister and Likud founding leader Menachem Begin.
“The goals that I am putting in place for the process itself are – one, the prevention of the creation of a binational state between the Jordan River and the sea; and the prevention of the creation of another terror state under Iranian sponsorship,” Netanyahu stated.
PA denies decision to negotiate
Even as the Israeli Prime Minister prepares to make concessions, a senior PLO official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said Sunday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership has not yet decided to return to negotiations with Israel. The decision depends on the PA's receiving clarifications on certain matters that are still unresolved, he said, and some of these are “substantive.”
Speaking with Voice of Palestine radio, Abed Rabbo said that the United States negotiators have promised to give the PA negotiators answers to their questions in the meeting that is planned to take place in Washington at week's end, between the PA's Saeb Erekat and Israel's Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho.
Abed Rabbo was asked if the unanswered questions include the “source of authority” of the negotiations, the release of PA terror prisoners and U.S. assurances, and did not rule out that this was the case.
PA news agency WAFA reported that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone Sunday with Turkish president Abdullah Gol, and discussed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the PA. He reportedly also spoke with British Foreign Minister William Hague on the same matter.
Despite the PA's denial, Israel's Channel 2 reported Sunday that both sides have agreed to accept Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, as a mediator during talks.
Indyk is Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C, and served as U.S. ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs during the Clinton Administration.