Palestinian prisoners being released from Ofer prison outside Ramallah, August 25, 2008
(Communicated by the Israel Prison Service)
As a confidence-building measure vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority, the Government of Israel decided on August 17, 2008 to release approximately 200 Palestinian prisoners in accordance to the criteria set by previous government decisions – that is to say, no release of those prisoners with "blood on their hands" belonging to Hamas or Palestinian Jihad. Those to be released are members of factions that support the leadership of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The government appointed a Ministerial Committee which approved the list of prisoners presented to it who were found suitable to the criteria fixed by a Coordinating Committee headed by the Director-General of the Ministry of Justice including representatives of all the relevant authorities connected with the matter (General Security Service, Israel Prison Service, Israel Defense Forces and Ministry of Justce).
The Government of Israel also decided to release two prisoners in exception to the criteria of "blood on their hands "as a gesture to the Head of the Palestinian Authority considering the long sentence they have served and the opinion of the security forces that the risk resulting from their release is low.
The decision in respect to the prisoners release is conditional to the agreement of the relevant authorities and after considering any objections that were raised.
The prisoner release will be carried out at 09:30 on Monday, 25 August 2008, at the Ofer Prison, to which the prisoners have been transferred following medical checks by Israel Prison Service medical personnel and meetings with Red Cross representatives. The prisoners will be transferred from the prison to the Beituniya checkpoint.
Through this latest confidence-building measure – which addresses an issue of critical significance for the Palestinians – Israel seeks to intensify its continued dialogue with partners who are both committed to diplomacy and opposed to terrorism. The release further underscores Israel’s willingness to make painful concessions for the sake of advancing peace negotiations.
* * *
FM Tzipi Livni to the Cabinet (17 Aug): "When Israel releases prisoners only to those who exert force against us, it conveys the message that we give in to the pressures of force and abduction. This is a message of weakness. Releasing prisoners only to Hamas strengthens Hamas. The release of prisoners to pragmatic elements as part of a process of negotiation conveys the message that those who negotiate with Israel can gain through dialogue."