In an open letter written to the citizens of Israel on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to explain his decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners ahead of and during the renewed peace talks set to take place next week.
Netanyahu will take the decision to release the prisoners, many with blood on their hands, to his cabinet for a vote on Sunday, according to an Israeli official. However, the vote will merely be a formality as Bibi has already reportedly agreed to the release and is using the cabinet to curry favor for a decision that is, thus far, facing a tremendous amount of backlash from Israeli society.
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“This is an incredibly difficult decision. It hurts the bereaved families, it hurts all of the Israeli people and it hurts me very much. It clashes with the most important principle, the principle of justice,” Netanyahu stated.
Netanyahu said that “sometimes prime ministers are forced to make decisions that go against public opinion – when the issue is important for the country.”
Netanyahu addressed the upcoming start of peace talks, saying that “in the next nine months we will determine if across from us is a Palestinian partner that desires a true end to the conflict as we do.”
The prime minister stated that such an end to the conflict would have to ensure security for Israelis and “ensure Israel’s essential national interests.”
The number of prisoners was increased to 104 from the original 82 who were all reportedly pre-Oslo Accords prisoners with blood on their hands. Israel Radio reported on Saturday that Netanyahu decided to raise the number of prisoners that Israel will release from 82 to 104 after the Palestinians threatened that they would not attend the opening meeting of talks in Washington next week otherwise.
The Palestinians have continued to raise demands for restarting the talks without offering anything in return, however, until now, Israel has complied with their demands.