As a part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resume peace talks in the Middle East, Israel will release some “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who have been detained for 10 years, the New York Times reports. The decision, however, is dependent on an upcoming vote by an “Israeli leadership that has been bitterly divided over the issue.”
It remained unclear on Saturday how many Palestinian prisoners were to be released and when, though it was unlikely to happen before the first meeting in Washington. It was also not clear whether the vote required was of Mr. Netanyahu’s full cabinet or a smaller circle of top ministers known as the security cabinet, both of which meet regularly on Sundays; Mr. Netanyahu has secured the support of several key ministers.
The prisoners’ status as “heavyweight” or “hardcore,” according to the Associated Press, means that they were involved in “deadly attacks.” Their release has long been a Palestinian demand for peace talks.
But, [Yuval] Steinitz said, other Palestinian demands will not be met, such as a freeze on settlement building and defining the 1967 lines as borders ahead of the negotiations.
The release of the prisoners would come in phases, Reuters reports. Steinitz, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister, said that the talks with Palestinians would take between nine months and a year.
He said this would stop the Palestinians from taking unilateral steps at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when they had planned to seek recognition for their statehood in the absence of direct talks with Israel.
Kerry says the negotiations are not yet sorted out, NPR reports.