Palestinian Sources: Abbas Asked Gantz to Release Security Fatah Prisoners

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. (Sputnik/Evgeny Biyatov/Kremlin via REUTERS)

Palestinian sources have said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas requested the release of security prisoners belonging to the Fatah party, who are held by Israel, during a meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz last August.

The sources told Yediot that the request was not reported in the wake of the meeting and was presented by Abbas as a request for a gesture of goodwill.

The two met a second time last December when Gantz hosted the Abbas at his home.

According to the sources, Abbas asked that Israel release 25 members of the Fatah organization that have been held in Israeli jails for decades, with some of whom imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

Gantz told Abbas that he would look into the matter, but the sources believe the current Israeli government would not agree to the release.

The last time Israel released Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Abbas was in 2013. Most of them also were from the Fatah movement and the release was as part of negotiations held at the time to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Among those whose release was agreed upon by then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but was ultimately rejected after the negotiations failed, were two Israeli Arab brothers who were jailed for the 1980 murder of Avraham Bromberg, Hy”d. Another prisoner was jailed for the murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam, Hy”d, in 1984.

Though their names were not confirmed to have been part of the latest request, it is likely that they were among those named by Abbas.

Abbas stressed in his meetings with Gantz the importance of strengthening the Fatah movement to offset the growing popularity of Hamas in Yehudah and Shomron. Abbas said such a move on the part of Israel would prove to his constituents that diplomacy could achieve better results than the violence carried out by Hamas.

Senior officials in the defense establishment said they would not object to the release of certain Fatah prisoners who have already served a decades-long sentence.

Following his meetings with Abbas, Gantz said some confidence building gestures were approved by the ministry towards the PA that included an expedited transfer of hundreds of millions of shekels in taxes and an increase of hundreds of work permits for Palestinians in Israel, as well as the approval of residency for thousands of Palestinians on a humanitarian basis in Yehudah, Shomron and in the Gaza Strip.

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