Ahead of Palestinian prisoner release, bill to halt releases is rejected

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli government committee approved the release of Palestinian prisoners hours after another committee rejected a bill that would have prevented such releases as part of peace negotiations.

The bill, which was  proposed by the Jewish Home party, was dismissed Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Hours later, a ministerial panel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a list of Palestinian prisoners scheduled to be released this week as part of the current revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Some 26 Palestinian prisoners will be freed on Tuesday in the second of four prisoner releases. In total, 104 Palestinians jailed for at least 20 years will be released; 26 prisoners were released in August.

All of the prisoners approved Sunday for release perpetrated offenses before the Oslo Accords of 1993, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office. Twenty-one are from the West Bank and five are from the Gaza Strip.

“It should be emphasized that any prisoner who resumes hostile activity will be returned to serve the remainder of his sentence,” the statement said.

Announcements of new West Bank settlement housing construction reportedly will coincide with the release in a bid to calm critics from the right.

Ministers of the Likud, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah parties voted against the bill,  while ministers of  Jewish Home and the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which is in partnership with Likud,  voted for the bill.

The public has 48 hours to raise objections to the list of prisoners released and appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Palestinian Authority reportedly is planning a reception ceremony for Tuesday night at its Muquata headquarters in Ramallah to greet the freed prisoners.

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