Israel Balks at Releasing Palestinian Prisoners

Demands Extension of Peace Talks Beyond Deadline

getty images

By Reuters

Published March 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday it might not carry out a final stage of a Palestinian prisoner release unless he commits to prolonging peace talks beyond a U.S.-set April deadline for a deal.

Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, issued the warning just a day after Abbas, at a White House meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama aimed at keeping the talks alive, voiced hope the prisoners would go free by March 29.

“There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations,” Livni said in a speech in southern Israel that could complicate Washington’s efforts to salvage peacemaking.

She was referring to Israel’s agreement, as part of U.S. efforts to revive Palestinian statehood talks frozen for three years, to free 104 inmates jailed for attacks, many of them deadly, against Israelis before a 1993 interim peace deal.

Israel has freed more than 70 of those prisoners since the negotiations resumed in July. But the talks have made little progress and Washington is trying to set guidelines to keep them going beyond the original April 29 target date for an accord.

U.S. officials fear the negotiations could break down if Israel fails to free the final batch of prisoners. Palestinians regard brethren jailed by Israel as heroes in a quest for an independent state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Israel views them as terrorists.

“The key to the door for Palestinian prisoners is in Abu Mazen’s hands,” Livni said, using Abbas’s nickname.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Israel wanted assurances that Abbas wouldn’t walk out of the talks once the prisoners went free.

Netanyahu, who met Obama in Washington two weeks ago, has said any peace deal with the Palestinians would take at least another year to negotiate should both sides accept U.S.-proposed principles to keep the talks going.

“We need to be sure the negotiations will last beyond the release of prisoners, and that they will be substantive, and on solid ground,” the official said.

Another stumbling block, the official said, is a Palestinian demand that Israeli Arabs convicted of deadly attacks on Jews be included among those due to go free this month.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.