Author Topic: Cabinet votes to free prisoners, paving way for peace talks  (Read 305 times)

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Offline flowers

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After a bitter debate lasting several hours, Israeli ministers voted Sunday to gradually release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in order to facilitate this week’s resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians.

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Thirteen ministers voted for the measure, seven against and two abstained. The vote approved the establishment of a committee to manage the phased process of prisoner releases, and approved the resumption of the talks, which are set to restart after a hiatus of almost three years in Washington on Tuesday.

The issue of releasing the prisoners, jailed since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, has divided Israelis, many of whom see the freeing of convicted murders and terrorists as a price too high to pay for a return to the talks. Others regard it as a necessary evil, meeting a Palestinian demand to enable a resumption of negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that approving the releases was a deeply painful decision, but one that served the wider interests of the state. Underlining the anguish and divisions over the move, two ministers from Netanyahu’s own Likud party voted against it, and two more abstained.

The list approved by the cabinet did not include any Israeli-Arab pre-Oslo convicts.

The committee that will handle the process of four phased releases as the talks continue will be made up of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Science Minister Yaakov Peri and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. It will decide which prisoners on the list of 104 will go free at what stage, determine whether they will be allowed to return to their homes or be sent into exile, and oversee the implementation.


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