Israel said Saturday that it’s prepared to release a number of Palestinian prisoners following a breakthrough in talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Yuval Steiniz, Israel’s intelligence and strategic affairs minister, said the release would involve “heavyweight prisoners in jail for decades”. He said the prisoners would be freed soon. (Note: the translation used by The Associated Press has it as “hardcore” instead of “heavyweight”).
The remarks follow an announcement Friday night by Kerry that Israeli and Palestinian officials would meet soon in Washington to work out the resumption of peace negotiations that broke down in 2008.
As NPR’s Emily Harris reports from Jerusalem, releasing long-term inmates from Israeli custody has been a key issue for Palestinian officials in order to restart talks. She reports that although the exact terms for resuming negotiations have yet to be formalized, minister Steiniz “says his government did not agree to stop Israeli settlements, or define future borders before negotiations start.”
Kerry, speaking in Amman, said the two sides had agreed in principle to restarting talks, but he declined to provide details. He told reporters that the “best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private.”
Talks could resume in the next week or so “if everything goes as expected,” Kerry said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Kerry on Friday, said in a statement that “some details still need to be worked out.”
On the release of Palestinian prisoners, the BBC reports:
“While the number of detainees to be freed is unclear, one Palestinian official said discussions had earlier focused on the release of 350 prisoners over a period of months, including around 100 men held since before 1993, when Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo peace accords.
According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 4,817 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails.”