Given a choice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left aside the issue of settlements and informed the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the “litmus test” for Israel’s seriousness in resumed negotiations will be the release of the 104 longest-held Palestinian prisoners.
These prisoners are men who have been in Israeli jails for 20 to 30 years, so far — since before the Oslo Accords. And, according to Palestinian negotiators, Israel already agreed to release these men, in 1999, but failed to do so.
Secretary Kerry has apparently told the Palestinians that the Israeli government will do this now.
There is still doubt. Israeli officials have suggested that they will decide which prisoners will be released — despite the list of 104 specific names Kerry passed to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. And, Israeli officials are saying that they will decide where the prisoners will be released to — whether it’s to their homes, or to Gaza or other countries. Palestinian officials are saying these men must be returned to their homes and families. See our post on our sister blog, UN-Truth, for more details.
The 104 prisoners are to be released in four groups over the 9-month projected time to which the Palestinians and Israeli negotiators have committed themselves — and the first group of 26 prisoners is to be released on August 13 — the day before a second meeting of the negotiators is due to take place in Jerusalem.