Behind the Headlines: Israel continues prisoner release policy
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
15 Dec 2008
In honor of the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), and as a confidence building measure towards the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad, the Israel government decided on Sunday, 7 December 2008, to release 230 Palestinian prisoners. The convicted prisoners who are serving sentences of varying lengths in Israeli prisons and are identified with either Fatah, the Popular Front (PFLP) or the Democratic Front (DFLP). The release is scheduled for Monday, 15 December 2008.
In accordance with the criteria set by previous government decisions, none of the prisoners have blood on their hands, and all belong to factions that support the Palestinian Authority and its leadership. None are associated with Hamas or Palestinian Jihad. The list of prisoners to be released was prepared by the Israel Security Agency and the Ministry of Justice. The majority of the prisoners will be released via the Beituniya checkpoint in the West Bank, and a minority (19) via the Erez Crossing into Gaza.
Through this latest confidence-building measure - which addresses an issue of critical significance for the Palestinians - Israel seeks to intensify its continued dialogue with partners who are both committed to negotiations and diplomacy and opposed to terrorism.
The prisoner release is being carried out within the framework of Israel's ongoing policy of implementing confidence-building measures and strengthening the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad.
Israel is sending a message that political achievements can be attained only through negotiations, and that the pursuit of terrorism will achieve nothing. The graduated release of prisoners is an ongoing process, which to date has brought about the release of approximately 1000 prisoners who support the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, alongside Israel-Palestinian security cooperation (such as the Jenin model), and other measures.
The prisoners are being released in honor of the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, and in deference to the high priority accorded to the prisoner issue in Palestinian society.
It should not be forgotten that these prisoners have been convicted of participation in terror attacks against Israeli citizens, and the Government of Israel is not eager to release any of them. Indeed, there is a great deal of internal criticism in Israel regarding the government's decision to release these prisoners - especially in light of the standstill in negotiations for the release of the Israel soldier Gilad Shalit who was abducted by the Hamas two and a half years ago.
The pursuit of this policy, despite the domestic controversy, reflects the priority given by the Israel government to making peace with pragmatic Palestinians.