JERUSALEM (Jun. 15)
Touring areas near the autonomous Jericho district in the West Bank this week, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin indicated that Israel might hold up the release of Palestinian prisoners if the Palestinian authorities decide to prosecute suspected collaborators with Israel.
Speaking to reporters during a tour of the Jordan Valley area on Tuesday, Rabin stated that arrests of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel represented a clear violation of the May 4 Cairo agreement for implementing Palestinian self-rule in Jericho and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian police are said to have rounded up some 70 suspected collaborators in the month since the start of autonomy in Gaza and Jericho. Earlier in the week a senior official in the provisional Palestinian government reportedly said that anyone convicted of collaborating with Israel would be subject to the death penalty.
Commenting on the report, Rabin said that the imposition of the death penalty was the Palestinians’ decision.
But he added that the arrest and punishment of collaborators stood in direct opposition to the terms of the Cairo agreement.
And he hinted broadly that any such action would have a negative impact on the future release of Palestinians currently in Israeli jails.
Preparations were meanwhile under way in Gaza and Jericho to receive several hundred prisoners whom Israel will be releasing soon.
Last week, the release of 287 prisoners whose homes were in West Bank areas not under Palestinian autonomy resulted in a dispute over an Israeli demand that the prisoners remain in the Jericho district until the end of their prison terms.
Palestinian police officials initially balked at the demand, and two top security officers were summoned to Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis to discuss the issue.
But this week, according to a report on Israel Radio, the Palestinians were apparently complying with the Israeli demand.
During a tour of military installations close to the Jericho autonomous area, Rabin met with Palestinian police for the first time since the start of self-rule a month ago.
He later expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the Israel Defense Force and the Palestinian police.
“It works, but it’s all in the earliest possible stages. Things are being worked out as they happen.
“Meanwhile, the will to find solutions to problems is there. Time will test the ability of the other side to carry out all it has undertaken to do,” said Rabin.