Abbas admits: freeing terrorists is "priority"
Mahmoud Abbas has announced that his priority for the West Bank is to have thousands of terrorists released from Israeli prisons
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has declared that the freeing of terrorists held by Israel was a "priority" for the leadership in the West Bank.
"The Palestinian leadership gives priority to the prisoners issue and ending their suffering," Abbas said in a speech to a meeting of his Fatah party in Ramallah - as reported by the Agence France-Presse news agency.
"We cannot be silent about their staying behind bars... [we] have demanded the freeing of all prisoners, especially those arrested before the Oslo accords, and sick, child and women prisoners," he said.
"But the Israeli government, in its arrogance, doesn't care" about the detainees, he added.
The speech coincided with the ongoing protests by prisoners, and as thousands of West Bank Palestinians lined the streets for the funeral of Maisara Abu Hamdiyeh, a prisoner who had served 10 years of a life sentence for attempted murder and died in an Israeli hospital from throat cancer.
Abbas said that in light of "the achievements in the UN" -- a reference to upgraded Palestinian status at the UN late last year that angered Israel -- the leadership would "go to the ends of the earth to protect our prisoners".
Dr. Jonathan Spyer, senior research fellow at the GLORIA Center for Global Research in International Relations told The Commentator, "Abbas's stress on the issue of the prisoners is the latest in a long line of indications that the PA has effectively abandoned a policy of seeking peace through historic compromise with Israel. Instead, Abbas is competing with his more energetic Islamist rivals in an ongoing attempt to delegitimise Israel, and force concessions from it while offering nothing in return."
The Palestinian Authority head also used his pulpit in Ramallah to slam Israeli settlement building, but without specific reference to Barack Obama's recent speech in the region which made it clear that settlements would be solved after talks without pre-conditions.
"Obama's visit to Palestine was positive. We presented our stance on the peace process... and explained the dangers to the two-state solution posed by continued settlement building," Abbas insisted - leading many to think he was embarrased by Obama's insistence upon talks without preconditions such as a settlement freeze.
Writing in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer commented recently, "In Ramallah last week, Obama didn’t just address this perennial Palestinian dodge. He demolished the very claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are 'the core issue,' he told Abbas. 'If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved.'"
In a surprise move, the State Department announced Wednesday that Kerry would return to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories early next week to build on talks and try to restart a stalled peace process.
Peace talks have been stalled since September 2010, with Palestinians demanding Israel stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem before a resumption of negotiations, and Israel rejecting any pre-conditions to talks.
There are around 4700 Palestinians currently serving time in Israeli prisons.
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