Cabinet to Vote on Prisoner Release

Ronny Sofer

Cabinet to Vote on Prisoner Release

Sunday meeting will vote for or against release of 250 prisoners promised by Olmert at Sharm el-Sheik, but will not decide on specific names



The cabinet meeting Sunday morning will deal with the 250 Palestinian prisoners to be released per Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s commitment given to regional leaders at the Sharm el-Sheik summit two weeks ago.

However, the ministers will not discuss the names on the list, as Olmert vetoed the names in an original list presented by Director-General of the Justice Ministry Moshe Shilo.

Olmert asked the Justice Ministry to prepare a new list that would not include prisoners who are scheduled to be released shortly. “If we want to strengthen Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), we cannot release prisoners who are going to be released soon anyway,” a senior official at the prime minister’s office told Ynet.

The new list will probably take over a week to prepare, which means that Olmert will not have the list to show Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at their meeting later this week.

The Almagor organization, which represents families of victims of terror attacks, demanded to see the list of the prisoners intended to be released, in order to “ensure that the list does not contain terrorists who attacked after ceasefire agreements with the PLO, are serving a second or third sentence, or were personally involved in terror attacks on Israelis.”

They requested to receive the list at least 48 hours in advance, in order to have sufficient time to inform the relevant families.

The government’s decision to release prisoners is aimed at strengthening Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. Government officials have said that this has nothing to do with the prisoner release deal in return for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

“This gesture is a manifestation of the prime minister’s goodwill in accordance with the commitment he gave President Bush in Washington to strengthen Abu Mazen. This is done to create a political opening with the Fatah government after the clashes with Hamas,” an official from the government.

In an attempt to return Israel and the Palestinian Authority onto the right track for dialogue Omert and Abbas are scheduled to meet later this week or next week as they said iat the Sharm summit.

The London-based newspaper el-Hayat reported over the weekend that General Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence, is scheduled to arrive in Israel for several meetings in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority with the intent of strengthening Abbas.

Suleiman has been active in the attempts to bring about the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. According to reports from Egypt, these negotiations will be renewed shortly, and it is possible that his visit is related to an attempt to promote the deal.