Olmert Releases 441 Palestinian Prisoners

Israeli PM courts Arab support ahead of next week's peace talks
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2007 9:23 AM CST
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, right, walks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, left, to attend the weekly cabinet meeting, at Fayyad's office in the West Bank...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Ehud Olmert today requested the release of 441 Palestinian prisoners and promised to stop building new settlements on the West Bank, in the hope of bolstering Arab enthusiasm for upcoming talks on Palestinian statehood. But the gesture was
received coolly: Mahmoud Abbas had asked for 2,000 prisoners, and the West Bank offer, which did not cover expansion of existing settlements, showed no new concessions, Reuters reports.

"If Olmert does not halt 'natural growth' then nothing has changed," said one Abbas aide.
Olmert also reiterated a promise to remove unauthorized settler-built outposts but gave no timetable. The prisoners, all members of Abbas’ Fatah wing “without blood on their hands,” could be free by Friday, pending ministerial review.