In response to the prime minister's decision to postpone the decision on the release of Arab Israelis, the Palestinian official said that "we are waiting to see what happens at the end of the meeting, but our understandings and the Americans' are extremely clear. If the release of 104 Palestinians is not certain – the Palestinians' original plans will change."
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The cabinet meeting was delayed by just over an hour due to continuous talks between Netanyahu and undecided ministers, in order to persuade them to support the proposal, or at least abstain.
In efforts to achieve a compromise that would also allow the undecided ministers to support Netanyahu's proposal, Minister Silvan Shalom presented an outline by which the votes for the release of Palestinian prisoners and Arab-Israeli prisoners will be done separately. The proposal, which was sent to the ministers late Saturday night, indeed did not include Arab-Israeli prisoners, but only a total number of prisoners to be released.
Following the meeting of Likud ministers, Netanyahu announced that "any decision on the release of Arab Israelis, if there is one, will be brought again before the cabinet." He even clarified that the team of ministers he is heading will determine exactly who the prisoners will be. The Palestinians have already demanded the release of Arab Israelis as a precondition to negotiations.
Netanyahu's opening remarks at the cabinet meeting did not mention the new outline or the matter of Arab-Israeli prisoners. "The government will discuss three topics – my proposal to renew talks with the Palestinians, the referendum bill and the establishment of a team of ministers to release prisoners," Netanyahu said, and reiterated that any agreement will be brought to a referendum.
"I believe that renewing negotiations at this time is important for the State of Israel, both in order to try and bring the conflict to an end, and due to the complicated reality of our region, primarily due to security challenges from Syria and Iran," Netanyahu added.
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