JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, warned that Israel may not release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners.
Israel is slated to release 30 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails on March 29, one month before Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are scheduled to end. More than 70 Palestinian prisoners have been released in three phases since the start of the negotiations in July; the releases reportedly were part of an agreement to resume the talks.
“There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations,” Livni said in a speech Tuesday.
Israel appears to be looking for a Palestinian agreement to extend the talks beyond April 29 in order to release the prisoners.
The Palestinian side has also called on Israel to release Israeli-Arabs convicted of terror attacks that killed Jews as part of the prisoner release.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will consider extending the talks after the prisoners are released. Israel is concerned that Abbas will walk away from the negotiating table once the releases are completed.