Ahead of a new round of peace negotiations, Israel has been talking about releasing imprisoned Palestinians even though they are considered to have blood on their hands. Hamas – the dominant faction in Gaza – has dismissed the idea. Main Israeli opposition right-wingers are also against it.
Fatah seem equally unimpressed. According to a senior Israeli official, the Intifada uprising leader Marwan Barghouthi could be a candidate for release – and he is a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – of the Fatah faction.
But the Israeli proposal to change the release criteria is not part of the Palestinian Authority’s agenda. Its foreign minister said the one item on it was stopping all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said dangling new prisoner releases would not bring about the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in June 2006.
On the eve of the second round of negotiations following the US-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Israel’s Construction Ministry unveiled a proposal to build 740 new homes next year on occupied land near Jerusalem.
The Palestinians see this as completing an encirclement of East Jerusalem, cutting off the Arabs there from Bethlehem and the occupied West Bank.