Ahead of coming deliberations of a ministerial committee on the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, a heated debae grew among cabinet members over the weekend.
The member ministers of the committee, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are expected to approve the release of 26 prisoners who will comprise the second group of prisoners to face release. The 26 names will be determined in line with Shin Bet recommendations.
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The prisoners' release is part of Israel's commitment to the US in order to relaunch direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Earlier this week, Habayit Hayehudi also reported their plan to propose a bill to prevent any Palestinian prisoners' release, and in an official statement claimed that Tzipi Livni is "releasing terrorist in return for the unsavory right of meeting with Saeb Erekat", which is "extremely severe".
Livni did not respond to the accusations, but a source close to her said Saturday evening that "The people who are releasing terrorists are the same people who resisted to freezing settlement construction," insinuating that after settlements continued to develop, the State of Israel was only left with the gesture of prisoners' release to demonstrate its commitment to the peace talks.
"Habayit Hayehudi is looking for excuses to stay in the government, but Livni isn't running this negotiation on behalf of herself," the source added. "She was always against releasing terrorists, and supported the building freeze. Habayit Hayehudi, which initially supported the freeze, backed out, and that is why the government is releasing prisoners right now. This prisoner release is taking place after a government decision, and that's no one's personal business. Habayit Hayehudi's conduct is disgraceful."
Yesh Atid, whose MK Yaakov Peri is a member of the ministerial committee, also denounced Habayit Hayehudi's resisting of the settlements' freeze as a precondition for negotiations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has kept mum on the subject so far, not standing behind Livni, though he is expected to address the matter on Sunday morning.
The source added that "Habayit Hayehudi prefers building in settlements over any other national or security interest of Israel. Hatnua, headed by Livni, will keep on leading in coordination with the prime minister the diplomatic process to accomplish the goal of two states for two people, which is a vital Israeli interest."
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