July 28, 2013

Deal to free Palestinian captives sets up Mideast peace talks

The first negotiations in years will begin Monday after Israel agrees to free 104 prisoners.

By WILLIAM BOOTH The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Palestinians protest Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah against resuming peace talks with Israel.

The Associated Press

The prime minister said dramatic changes in the Middle East -- in Egypt, Syria and Iran -- not only create challenges, but "considerable opportunities for us" to strike a deal.

Netanyahu stressed that while he agreed to release prisoners, and only after talks begin, he rejected a Palestinian demand that he announce a freeze on new construction in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

According to Israeli media, Netanyahu told Kerry that over the next nine months, as many as 1,000 new units may be approved for construction in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.

Netanyahu was silent on a third Palestinian demand -- that negotiations about borders for a future Palestinian state begin with the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Qaddura Fares, president of the Palestinian Prisoners' Society, welcomed the prisoner release as "the right decision for negotiations."

"It will only help to create an atmosphere of calm. It shows that the state of Israel really does want peace," he said.

Fares warned, however, that the prisoners must be released to their homes -- that a prisoner who hails from Ramallah not be expelled into the Gaza Strip.

PROTESTERS GATHER

The Palestinian prisoners have all been held since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which created interim and limited self-government for the Palestinians and Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

Because the crimes date to the 1980s and 1990s, in an era before suicide bombing became a widespread tactic by Palestinians, the attackers used molotov cocktails, knives, guns and grenades in their attacks. Many of the attackers were members of Abbas's Fatah Party and their targets were soldiers.

As Netanyahu and his cabinet debated the release, a few hundred protesters gathered outside of the prime minister's office and waved signs illustrated with bloody palm prints.

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