Israel Releases 500 Palestinian Prisoners

Discussion in 'Israel and Palestine' started by Bonnie, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. Bonnie
    Offline

    Bonnie Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    9,476
    Thanks Received:
    668
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Wherever
    Ratings:
    +669
    Israel Frees 500 Palestinians, Triggering Range of Emotions
    Some Israelis decry the release of prisoners, who enjoy tearful reunions with relatives.

    Israel Plans to Free 500 Palestinians
    February 21, 2005


    Israel Frees 500 Palestinians, Triggering Range of Emotion



    By Laura King, Times Staff Writer


    JERUSALEM — Israel freed 500 Palestinian prisoners Monday, the first such mass release since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took office last month.

    At checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, tearful Palestinian families greeted prison buses carrying the freed men. Some of the men stepped off the buses, dropped to their knees and kissed the ground.


    Prisoner releases are seen as one of the most crucial means by which Israel can bolster Abbas' credibility in the eyes of his people and build on the momentum generated by this month's summit in Egypt.

    Few issues so galvanize Palestinian public opinion as prisoner releases. Palestinians regard the prisoners as national heroes, and Abbas would risk being hounded out of office if he were unable to secure the freedom of large numbers of those behind bars in Israel. During peace negotiations between the two sides in 2003, Abbas' inability to win large-scale prisoner releases helped cut short his ill-fated tenure as prime minister under Yasser Arafat.

    Freeing prisoners is a political risk for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is already under enormous pressure from conservatives over his plan to uproot Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. His Cabinet approved the withdrawal Sunday.

    Some families of Israelis slain in Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks fought an unsuccessful legal battle to block Monday's prisoner release. Although none of those freed was directly involved in attacks on Israelis, televised scenes of prisoners jubilantly raising their manacled hands in the air were wrenching for many in Israel.

    "Our loved ones are buried in the ground, and terrorists are being released," said Pnina Eisenman, whose mother and 5-year-old daughter were killed in a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem bus stop in June 2002.

    For Palestinians too, the homecomings were fraught with emotion.

    "I am so happy to be out of prison," said Ismail Amassi, 43, who was jailed in early 2002 after being convicted of membership in a terrorist organization. "I could hardly picture anymore what my wife and children looked like…. I was so afraid I might die away from my family."

    In the northern West Bank town of Jenin, one Palestinian man was killed by celebratory gunfire.

    Monday's release was the largest since 1996, when Israel freed 800 Palestinians under the terms of the Oslo peace accords. An additional 400 prisoners are to be let out of Israeli jails in the next three months.

    The two sides are likely to wrangle over the timing and scope of later releases. Palestinians demand the freedom of many more of the 8,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel has said it will not free those with "blood on their hands," meaning Palestinians convicted of direct involvement in Israeli deaths.

    Hisham Abdel Razek, Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, said the releases would aid a cease-fire that has largely held since Abbas took office Jan. 15.

    "We must meet both parties' interest rather than each looking only at his own side," Abdel Razek said. "It is the only issue that can sustain a truce."

    As well as overseeing carefully calibrated dealings with Israel, Abbas is coping with some degree of internal dissent. Palestinians have been feuding over the makeup of their new Cabinet, and lawmakers are expected to vote today on the lineup of ministers, which includes a number of reform-minded figures but also may retain remnants of the corruption-tainted old guard.

    Sharon also is contending with domestic woes. Sunday's vote in the Israeli Cabinet set the clock ticking for the settlers' withdrawal, which is to take place over a seven-week period starting in late July. Opponents of the pullout have promised a campaign of disruptive nationwide protests.

    National Police Chief Moshe Karadi told Israel Radio that about 18,000 police officers and 2,500 soldiers would be mobilized for the evacuation of 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four smaller communities in the northern West Bank.

    Sharon appears to have the support of Israeli citizens to relinquish the Gaza Strip, where about 8,000 settlers live among 1.3 million Palestinians. Defending the settlements has cost millions of dollars and many soldiers' lives.

    Israel's Army Radio reported Monday that in an opinion poll of 95,000 voters, 65% indicated that they would support a Gaza withdrawal.

    But settler leaders reacted furiously to the Cabinet vote, promising to try to topple Sharon next month by defeating his annual budget. If the spending plan is not approved by the Knesset, or parliament, by March 31, elections would automatically be triggered.

    Rabbis in the settler movement said Monday that the pullout goes against Jewish religious law, or halacha.

    "In Sodom, too, there were human laws, but divine law overturned them," the rabbis said in a statement, referring to a biblical city that was destroyed in a hail of fire and brimstone.

    Israeli media commentary tended to cast Sunday's vote as a tactical move by Sharon, a military man for much of his life, to give up Gaza in order to cement Israel's hold over large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    Not coincidentally, the Cabinet also approved a modified route for Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank, which would place the largest of the Jewish population centers on the Israeli side of the structure.

    "If the country were a chessboard, one could say that Sharon sacrificed a rook [Sunday] to protect the queen," political columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yediot Aharonot daily. "Sharon has not become a dove. He has remained what he always was: a pragmatic hawk."


    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationw...ry?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=3&cset=true
     
  2. drac
    Offline

    drac Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Messages:
    429
    Thanks Received:
    22
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Ratings:
    +22
    and here is a thank you note to israeli from palis

    http://www.debka.com/
     
  3. Bonnie
    Offline

    Bonnie Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    9,476
    Thanks Received:
    668
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Wherever
    Ratings:
    +669
    Isn't that just fu@kin wonderful!!!
     
  4. Annie
    Offline

    Annie Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2003
    Messages:
    50,847
    Thanks Received:
    4,644
    Trophy Points:
    1,790
    Ratings:
    +4,770
    anyone surprised? I'm not seeing any hands? What was that France said about Hizbollah?
     
  5. Bonnie
    Offline

    Bonnie Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    9,476
    Thanks Received:
    668
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Wherever
    Ratings:
    +669
    Not surprised, but wondering what kind of position this puts sharon in being he is already on thin ice?
     
  6. Annie
    Offline

    Annie Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2003
    Messages:
    50,847
    Thanks Received:
    4,644
    Trophy Points:
    1,790
    Ratings:
    +4,770
    Very thin and cracking. If I was Israeli my take would be, "That's what you get for treating them like they want peace!"
     
  7. Bonnie
    Offline

    Bonnie Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Messages:
    9,476
    Thanks Received:
    668
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Wherever
    Ratings:
    +669
    Scary thing is that this is not just isolated to Israel, we all have a stake in how this peace process plays out.

    But it does prove once again that the true motives for the extremeists is death to the whole state of Israel, they don't want peace, they want Israel gone! And whats worse is for many other countries and some here in the U.S. there is very little if no recognition of that. I have to wonder why?

    Is it just another case of the haves and the have nots, democracy vs fascism???
     

Share This Page