Senior Palestinian officials, including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, expressed regret Friday morning over Israel’s decision not to release Palestinian prisoners ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Although Israel eased restrictions on
the Palestinians ahead of the holiday, the Prime Minister’s Bureau decided not to release prisoners as of yet.
In response to the Palestinian reaction, a senior official in the bureau commented, “Instead of expressing regret, if they maintained the ceasefire maybe they would get the prisoners.”
As of Friday morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not yet scheduled a discussion on the request from the Palestinian side to free a few dozen prisoners as a good will gesture on the occasion of the Muslim holiday, which starts Sunday.
“Without a discussion – prisoners won’t be released,” the PM’s office clarified, indicating that in fact there would be no release.
The prime minister agreed to consider the issue after meeting
with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage in Jerusalem Saturday.
The Palestinian delegation requested the prisoner release, and Olmert, wishing to be the perfect host, did not
refuse them outright. “I’ll look into it,” he answered.
On the Sunday following, Israeli ministers held a mini-poll during the weekly Cabinet meeting for Olmert to feel out their response towards the symbolic gesture. Vice Premier Shimon Peres and deputy premiers Amir Peretz and Shaul Mofaz expressed their support for the move.
The issue is slated to come up in discussions this week.
Ali Waked contributed to the report