PA rejects Israeli criteria for prisoner release as Sharon cabinet approves move
The Israeli cabinet voted 13-8 to approve the release of Palestinian prisoners. At first, cabinet members tied 10-10, but three ministers later changed their vote in support of the move.
The ministers agreed to change their vote under two conditions: the cabinet established a ministerial committee to decide which prisoners will be released and added a clause to the prisoner release document saying that the release is dependent on the Palestinians' fight against "terror," Haaretz reported.
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his cabinet Sunday that no Palestinian prisoner who killed Israeli civilians will be released. The cabinet began debating the issue after Sharon outlined the criteria for releasing prisoners.
However, the Israeli criteria do not meet Palestinian expectations, and that difference might be great enough to lead to an end of the cease-fire agreement. A Palestinian minister said before the Israeli decision that the PA would break off from the truce agreement if Israel decides not to release all prisoners, including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Hisham Abd al-Raziq, the Palestinian minister in charge of overseeing the release of the Palestinian detainees, said that the prisoner release issue was a potential deal-breaker, and that if Israel did not free all the Palestinian prisoners whom the PA wants let out, the Palestinians would see the security agreement as broken.
In an interview with Israel's Army Radio, Abd al-Raziq said that "from our point of view, this is the most important issue and Israel has to decide, in principle, that it will release all of them, and carry out the decision gradually."
"If there will be a decision that one of the criteria is not to release Hamas or Jihad prisoners with blood on their hands, we cannot be part of this deal. We will leave the
cease-fire," he said.
About 6,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails and detention camps. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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