The Israeli cabinet has agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners in an effort to restart the peace process.
Israeli ministers held a meeting on Sunday which resulted in 13 votes in favour, seven against and two abstentions to release the prisoners who were jailed before the Oslo Accords in 1993.
It is expected that the first release will take place in a few weeks’ time with the remainder staggered over a nine-month period.
The cabinet vote was part of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan to kick start the peace process. Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet in Washington this evening to discuss the next steps.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet: "This moment is not easy for me. It is not easy for the ministers. It is not easy especially for the families, the bereaved families, whose heart I understand. But there are moments in which tough decisions must be made for the good of the country and this is one of those moments."
Naftali Bennett, leader of Jewish Home Party, opposed the deal. He said: "Terrorists must be killed, not released. In every one of my previous positions, I fought against releasing terrorists, and I have no intention of acting any differently when I'm in the cabinet. Let my hand be cut off should I vote in favour of releasing terrorists. We support the peace process, but no country in the world would agree to release murderers as a gift."
A ministerial committee to manage the release will be comprised of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Mr Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, Science Minister Yaakov Peri and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.