Blow to peace talks with Israel set to miss prisoner-release deadline

Family members protesting for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Hebron (Photo: Lisa Nessan)

Family members protesting for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Hebron (Photo: Lisa Nessan)

Israel will not release the fourth and last group of 26 Palestinian prisoners on Saturday evening as agreed under the US-led peace talks.

The names of the prisoners must be made public 48 hours before they are freed - not including Shabbat. As Prime Minister Netanyahu’s five-minister committee has not met to decide which inmates to release, there is not enough time to meet the Saturday night deadline.

While the Prime Minister’s Office has not commented on the matter, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni , who has assumed some responsibility for managing the negotiations with the Palestinians, said Israel was never under any “automatic commitment to release the prisoners”.

One unnamed official in the Israeli government said the situation was “fluid” and depended to a great extent on how Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas would respond.

The PA’s minister for prisoners affairs said that Israel’s refusal to free the last batch of Palestinian inmates could lead to major protests and unrest inside Israeli detention facilities.

Nevertheless, US representatives remained optimistic about the peace talks, describing them as “constructive”.

Last updated: 1:34pm, March 28 2014