Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians appear to have come to a dead end. Tuesday morning, Minister Naftali Bennett, who serves on the diplomatic-security cabinet, announced that Israel is reconsidering releasing Israeli Arab security prisoners at the end of the month.
Israel is scheduled to release the prisoners as part of a previous agreement with the Palestinian Authority under a good will gesture towards peace negotiations. Interviewed on Israel Defense Forces Radio, Bennett explained that Abbas is already figuring out ways to sabotage peace talks after the release of the prisoners.
“Now that it’s clear to everyone that there’s no progress in the negotiations. There’s only the launching of missile and the radicalization of Abu-Mazen [Abbas] on his side. I think the time has come for the cabinet to discuss the fourth phase to see what’s the sense, since Abu-Mazen is already saying ‘I just want the terrorists and then I’ll explode the negotiations.’ What? We’ll give him the terrorists so he can explode the negotiations? What is the logic in that?”
Bennett slammed PA President Mahmoud Abbas as acting only in the self interest of the Palestinians without giving concessions in return to Israel. Speaking on the issue of Abbas’s staunch refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Bennett made clear that future dialogue was virtually improbable.
“Whoever is unwilling to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is not a partner in dialogue,” he said.
Other Israeli governmental officials have also expressed their support in blocking the fourth installment of the prisoner release. Transportation Minister Israel Katz said that he would do all he could to prevent the release of the prisoners. He specifically mentioned the release of Fatah politician Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted of five counts of murder and sentenced to five life sentences.
“It was a mistake to release the murderers from before the Oslo process in return for starting the talks, and it would be moral bankruptcy to release Barghouti and his friends to continue the talks,” Katz said.
Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman said, “Such gestures did not lead to any progress with the Palestinians until now, but did increase acts of terror.” He called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold a second cabinet vote before the release to block the release.