Israel to Release Longtime Prisoners Amid Palestine Talks

Some have been 'in jail for decades': minister
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2013 7:18 AM CDT
Updated Jul 20, 2013 7:45 AM CDT
Israel to Release Longtime Prisoners Amid Palestine Talks
John Kerry arrives to board a flight to reach the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, July 19, 2013 in the Jordanian capital Amman.   (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)

With Israel-Palestine talks potentially beginning next week, Israel will release some "heavyweight (Palestinian) prisoners in jail for decades," says top minister Yuval Steinitz. Details are fuzzy, but it's possible 350 prisoners could be released over several months, a Palestinian official tells the BBC; some 100 of them have been in detention since before 1993. That's out of 4,817 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, by an Israeli human rights group's count.

The prisoners' release sees Israel taking action on one of three roadblocks standing in the way of talks, the New York Times notes. Palestine also wants negotiating to center on Israel's 1967 borders and is seeking a freeze on Israeli West Bank settlements. But "there is no chance that we will agree to enter any negotiations that begin with defining territorial borders or concessions by Israel, nor a construction freeze," Steinitz says. John Kerry has "gotten them into the pool," an expert tells the Times. "Right now they’re in the very shallow end, and they’re going to have to swim in deeper waters—and they can be treacherous." (Read more Israel stories.)

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