A day after President Barack Obama urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make tough decisions and take risks for peace, the PA continued to press its demand for the release of Arab-Israeli prisoners at the end of March, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The PA published on Tuesday a list of 30 terrorists it expects Israel to free in a fourth and final prisoner release associated with the talks. The list reportedly included 14 Arab-Israelis and four Palestinians from eastern Yerushalayim.
Abbas’s Spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah threatened that if Israel does not comply, there would be “big consequences.”
Israel has until now categorically refused to free Arab-Israelis in the deal.
Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni told Abbas on Tuesday that there might not be a final stage of prisoner releases if Abbas does not commit to continuing peace talks beyond a U.S.-set April deadline for a deal.
“There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations,” Livni said.
The Israel Prison Service said on Tuesday that it could not confirm that those on the list would be released.
An Israeli official told the Post that Israel sought assurances that Abbas wouldn’t walk out of talks once the prisoners go free.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) pledged to work to prevent the release of terrorists, especially Marwan Barghouti, whose name came up in media reports this week. Barghouti has been convicted on five counts of murder and sentenced to five life sentences.
“It was a mistake to release the murderers from before the Oslo process in return for starting the talks, and it would be moral bankruptcy to release Barghouti and his friends [in order] to continue the talks,” Katz said.
Among prisoners on the PA’s list of convicted murderers were the Israeli-Arab cousins Kareem and Maher Younis who received life sentences in 1983 for stabbing to death two years earlier IDF soldier Avraham Bromberg.
Meir Indor, the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, said that “if the report is true, it is a scandal, because the state promised us at the High Court there would be an additional cabinet meeting prior to the release of the fourth batch of prisoners.”
Indor said he doubts a majority in the government will vote to release Arab-Israeli murderers. He said that he was scheduled to speak with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to ascertain if the Palestinian claims are true.