Ministers Shaul Mofaz, Yitzahk Aharonovitch and all of Shas' four ministers opposed the proposal. Minister Avigdor Lieberman was absent from the vote.
Following the vote, the Justice Ministry and the Shin Bet will formulate a list of 250 prisoners "without blood on their hands," namely prisoners who were not involved in the murder of Israelis.
At the opening of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressed that the prisoners' release would serve as a goodwill gesture toward Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"We should make this gesture… in order to make every effort to encourage and support the moderate Palestinians, including Abu Mazen, and create the initial conditions for negotiations," Olmert said.
The prime minister said he was convinced that the prisoners' release could facilitate the freeing of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
Other gestures to the Palestinians include the release of tax funds held by Israel, a renewal of the cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, improving the freedom of movement of the civilian Palestinian population in the area, and boosting financial ties between Israel and West Bank Palestinians.