Report: Netanyahu to Release Prisoners, Freeze Construction

YERUSHALAYIM -

Secretary of State John Kerry may be making headway in his efforts to broker mutual concessions by Israel and the Palestinians that will pave the way for renewed peace negotiations, according to media reports.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to release prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords and to freeze housing construction outside of the main blocs in Yehudah and Shomron, Western diplomats were quoted as saying on Tuesday.

In return, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will relinquish his precondition to restart talks based on the 1967 lines.

The plan is said to be aimed at allowing the two leaders to save face while each gives up something. Netanyahu can present the release of the prisoners as a gesture for peace, rather than a concession, and Abbas could claim it as a personal achievement.

However, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denied knowledge of such a quid pro quo. He told Army Radio that negotiations would only resume when Netanyahu agrees to the a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

Kerry, who returns to the region on Thursday, will be seeking a face-to-face meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas without preconditions, Ynet reported.

The Palestinians did not rush to endorse this idea, either. One Palestinian source was skeptical that Kerry could arrange any such meeting without preconditions, and said that the matter is not on the Palestinian agenda.

According to the source, discussion in Ramallah about a possible meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas ended inconclusively last week.