Did Israel renege?

Did Israel renege on a commitment to the Palestinians?
Articles in both the New York Times and Washington Post
published on Monday, 2014-04-07,
contain claims from the Palestinians that Israel reneged on a commitment.
Here are the two articles,
followed by some earlier articles on the background.

Israelis and Palestinians Ask U.S. Envoy for New Meeting
New York Times, 2014-04-07

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators planned to meet with an American mediator on Monday for the second straight day in an effort to salvage the Middle East peace talks, which were pushed to the brink of breakdown last week.

A statement from the American Consulate in Jerusalem described a session on Sunday night as “serious and constructive.” It said the negotiators, Tzipi Livni for the Israelis and Saeb Erekat for the Palestinians, had asked the Obama administration’s envoy, Martin S. Indyk, for another round.

The meetings followed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on Sunday that he wanted the talks to continue “but not at any price.” Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have made it clear that although they broke commitments last week that they made when they started the negotiations last summer, they still considered themselves bound by the original timetable and therefore have until April 29 to find a way out of the crisis.

Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would take its own “unilateral steps” in response to the Palestinians’ move last week to join 15 international treaties and conventions and reiterated that a Palestinian state could be created “only through direct negotiations, not through empty statements and not by unilateral moves.”

The Palestinians said they took the contentious step only because Israel reneged on a promise to release a group of long-serving prisoners by the end of March, breaking its own commitment as part of the negotiations.

It was Mr. Netanyahu’s first public statement about the peace process since the crisis last week, which left the American-brokered negotiations on the brink of collapse and came hours before the lead Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met with Mr. Indyk.

Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official who resigned as a negotiator in the midst of the current talks, said on Monday that Mr. Abbas’s application to join the international entities was “irreversible” and represented a “paradigm shift” in which Palestinians would pursue other options in parallel with bilateral negotiations. But he, too, suggested that there could yet be a way out of the crisis.

“We are keeping the door open for any serious talks,” he said at a briefing in Ramallah. “We have time between today and the 29th of April. If the Israeli side is serious, we are ready for that.”

Mr. Shtayyeh rejected Israel’s demand that the applications to the entities be withdrawn and said Palestinians want to separate the issues of the release of the promised fourth batch of prisoners from that of extending the timetable for the talks. He said extending negotiations would require either a freeze on construction in West Bank settlements or the Israeli presentation of a map outlining the future borders of the promised two states.

“Some of you might be under the impression that the differences between us and the Israelis have to do with the prisoner release” or the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Mr. Shtayyeh told some 50 Palestinian and foreign journalists. “We have big differences with the Israelis on refugees, on Jerusalem, on borders, and on the Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley,” he said. “The gap between us and the Israelis has been growing and not narrowing. No one should be left under the impression that we have an opportunity that we are losing.”

Though Mr. Netanyahu, in his comments on Sunday, was clearly trying to lay blame for the possible collapse on his counterpart, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, he, like other leaders who spoke over the past several days, left open a window for salvaging the talks before April 29.

Mr. Netanyahu did not specify what “unilateral steps” Israel might employ, though local news outlets have reported that the country is preparing to block a mobile-phone company from entering the Gaza Strip and providing 3G service in the West Bank, and to cancel plans for some development projects in the West Bank.

“We are ready to continue the talks, but not at any price,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. “The Palestinians substantially violated in a significant way the understandings that were reached with American involvement. The Palestinian threats to appeal to the U.N. will not affect us — the Palestinians have much to lose from this unilateral move.”

Israeli leaders attribute the crisis to Mr. Abbas’s signing of documents Tuesday night seeking membership in 15 international treaties and conventions, something he had promised not to do during the nine-month term of the talks Secretary of State John Kerry started last summer.

But the Palestinians say their move, which leveraged the nonmember observer-state status they won at the United Nations in 2012, came only because the prisoner release did not occur on time.

“The release of prisoners is part of an agreement, and no compromise can be accepted,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close aide to Mr. Abbas and an officer of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said Sunday on the Voice of Palestine radio station. “This is a basic issue for us. Israel continues with its practices withdrawing all agreement, and at the same time it does not want to commit to any agreed-about standards.”

Such finger-pointing was not just between the parties to the talks. It also broke out within Israel’s cabinet, where there are deep divisions on the Palestinian question.

Ms. Livni, the justice minister, who has been leading the negotiations for the Israelis, accused the housing minister, Uri Ariel, of deliberately sabotaging the process by publishing tenders for 700 new apartments in Gilo, a Jewish area of East Jerusalem, on Tuesday, even as Mr. Netanyahu was preparing to convene the cabinet to discuss a new deal to extend negotiations. Palestinians say the Gilo announcement contributed to Mr. Abbas’s decision to sign the documents joining international conventions.

“The entire Jewish Home and Uri Ariel, first and foremost, have only been waiting for an opportunity to continue to build, to make more statements, to bring the world down on our heads and prevent us from reaching an arrangement,” Ms. Livni said in an Israeli television interview broadcast Saturday night, referring to Mr. Ariel’s right-wing faction.

“That is the price of the presence of having Uri Ariel and the Jewish Home in the government,” she added. “I didn’t want them there, and they’re permanent damage.”

Mr. Ariel called Ms. Livni “insolent” in a radio interview on Sunday morning, and said the tenders were unconnected to the negotiations and meant to help ease Israel’s housing crisis. “The joke is on Minister Livni, who received unlimited credit to make peace,” Mr. Ariel said, “and failed completely. Now she’s looking for someone to blame other than herself.”

Mr. Netanyahu, in his cabinet remarks, echoed Ms. Livni’s statements that Israel had been about to approve a deal for extending the talks into 2015 when Mr. Abbas acted. The deal was to include Israel’s release of the prisoners originally promised by the end of March, plus 400 others, and “restraint” on West Bank settlement construction, in exchange for the Obama administration’s freeing Jonathan J. Pollard, the former Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, and a continued Palestinian commitment not to pursue membership in United Nations bodies.

“During these talks we carried out difficult steps and showed a willingness to continue implementing moves that were not easy — in the coming months as well — in order to create a framework that would allow for putting an end to the conflict between us,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

“Just as we were about to enter into that framework for the continuation of the negotiations, Abu Mazen hastened to declare that he is not prepared even to discuss recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he added, using Mr. Abbas’s nickname. “To my regret, as we reached the moment before agreeing on the continuation of the talks, the Palestinian leadership hastened to unilaterally request to accede” to international conventions.

Netanyahu blames Palestinians for collapsing peace talks
By William Booth
Washington Post, 2014-04-07


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke his silence on the collapsing peace talks Sunday
by blaming Palestinian leaders for the crisis and threatening retaliatory steps.

In remarks at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that
just as the parties were nearing an agreement last week
to extend the U.S.-brokered ­negotiations through the end of 2014,
Palestinian leaders ­announced their decision to sign on to
15 treaties and conventions under the auspices of the United Nations.

“The Palestinians’ threats to appeal to the U.N. will not affect us.
The Palestinians have much to lose by this unilateral move,”
Netanyahu said.
“These will only push a peace agreement farther away, and
unilateral steps on their part
will be met with
unilateral steps on our part.”

[What has Israel been doing in the West Bank since 1967
but making unilateral moves?
Year after year,
we they announce new housing permits on the West Bank for Israeli Jews.
These have all been made unilaterally.
What hypocrisy it is, it seems to me,
to complain about unilateral steps taken by the Palestinians
while ignoring the unilateral steps previously taken by Israel.]

Israel’s retaliatory measures could include
withholding transfers of millions of dollars in taxes and fees
that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians say that it is Israel that has pushed the talks toward collapse.

To restart the peace process,
Netanyahu promised in July to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners,
many convicted of murdering Israelis.
In return, the Palestinians agreed not to seek greater recognition as a state from the United Nations.

The Israelis released three groups, a total of 78 prisoners,
but balked last week at freeing the last batch of 26 inmates.

The Palestinians say the Israelis reneged on their promise,
adding that they believe it to be within their rights to go to the United Nations.
Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents
that would allow the Palestinians to become parties to 15 inter­national treaties
guaranteeing, among other things, the rights of women, children, the disabled and civilians in times of war.

Netanyahu’s remarks Sunday came after days of charges and countercharges as Palestinians and Israelis jockey to blame each other for the crisis. U.S. diplomats have said that both sides have made “unhelpful” moves.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry declared Friday that “it’s reality-check time” as to whether a deal can be reached and whether the United States will continue to play a role in bringing the two sides closer.

“You can facilitate, you can push, you can nudge, but the parties themselves have to make fundamental decisions and compromises,” Kerry said last week as his signature diplomatic effort began to founder. “The leaders have to lead, and they have to be able to see a moment when it’s there.”

Palestinians complain that
nothing has been achieved in eight months of negotiations
and that
the Israelis have refused to discuss specifics of the conflict,
such as the status of East Jerusalem
and the borders of a new Palestinian state.

“Israel wants never-ending ­negotiations,
negotiations for the sake of negotiating,
while it buys time to build more settlements,”
a top Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Voice of Palestine radio.

[It has been that way ever since 1967, it appears to me.
The lone exceptions were the attempts of Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin and Olmert to make genuine concessions.
Rabin was assassinated for his efforts,
while Olmert was forced out of office under the threat of corruption charges.]

Netanyahu said Sunday, “We are prepared to continue the talks, but not at any price.”

As Netanyahu met with his cabinet ministers, U.S. diplomat Martin Indyk convened another closed-door meeting between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

As the diplomatic gears were grinding, Israeli leaders began to turn on one another, assigning blame for the failure of talks.

The Israeli parliament announced it would return from its spring recess for a special session to investigate and debate what its Web site described as “the crisis in negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said that an announcement last week by Housing Minister Uri Ariel that Israel wanted to build 708 housing units in a disputed community in East Jerusalem was timed to “torpedo” the efforts to make peace.

Ariel responded that Livni has “failed completely, and now she’s looking for someone to blame other than herself.”

Another top Israeli official, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, compared threats by Palestinians to take a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to a gun without any bullets.

“Let them go. I’ll buy the ticket,” Bennett said.

Bennett said Israel should respond by bringing the Palestinians to the international court with their own charges of war crimes — specifically for the rockets fired from the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian population centers.

For a very one-sided view of the situations, see

Israel is reneging on its promise to release Palestinian prisoners
That’s the long and short of this latest ‘crisis’ in the peace talks.
By Larry Derfner
972mag.com, 2014-03-26

The backstory:

Hope for Negotiations Stays Alive in Mideast
New York Times, published in print on Thursday, 2014-04-03

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian leadership on Wednesday formally submitted applications to join 15 international conventions and treaties despite opposition from the United States and Israel, reflecting a deep crisis in Middle East peace talks. Yet all three parties appeared ready to seek a formula for continuing the negotiations.

A three-way meeting between American, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators was said to be taking place Wednesday night in Jerusalem. Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered the start of the talks last July and has remained intimately involved, spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority by telephone from Brussels.

A senior State Department official said that while it would be “shortsighted and premature” to make any predictions, “we will spend the next few days continuing to discuss with both parties the options for the path ahead.”
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

Mr. Netanyahu’s office maintained an official silence through Wednesday suggesting Israel had no interest in inflaming the situation. But experts said there was likely to be some practical Israeli reaction, possibly taking the form of announcements of more settlement construction or withholding the transfer of tax revenues that the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli government’s negotiator, wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday night that the latest Palestinian moves were “not encouraging” but that she was engaged in a determined effort to keep the “difficult and complex” negotiations going.

Palestinian officials and analysts described the move led by Mr. Abbas as a carefully calculated one born largely of domestic considerations, meant to salvage credibility in the eyes of his jaded public, not to derail the peace process. The Palestine Liberation Organization’s negotiations department said in a statement that “The P.L.O. remains committed to this nine-month process, which ends on April 29.”

That gives American mediators almost another month to try to work out a deal for the extension of talks that have so far yielded little progress, but have the stated goal of the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The American administration appeared focused on containing the situation with even-handedness. The State Department official said of the Israelis and Palestinians, “Both sides have taken unhelpful steps over the last 24 hours.”

For the Palestinians, the crisis was precipitated by what they said was an Israeli violation of a commitment to release a fourth batch of long-serving Palestinian security prisoners by March 29. Mr. Abbas had pledged not to seek membership in international bodies for the nine months allotted for the negotiations, in return for the release of prisoners. But Israel had delayed the release while it tried to seal a broader, American-brokered deal to extend the negotiations through to the beginning of 2015.

[Stall, stall, stall.
Isn't it clear that that is the Israeli strategy?]

Palestinian officials were further enraged on Tuesday when the Israeli government reissued bids for the construction of more than 700 housing units in Gilo, an area of Jerusalem that Israel captured in the 1967 war and that the Palestinians claim as part of a future state. The construction tenders were first issued late last year and again in January but they failed to attract any bids from developers.


Before the latest Palestinian move Israeli officials had spoken of an emerging deal involving the imminent release by the United States of an American jailed for spying for Israel in the 1980s; the release of the fourth batch of prisoners and an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners who had not committed murder; and a slowdown in settlement activity in the West Bank — though not applying to areas of Jerusalem like Gilo.

Mr. Abu Amr said those terms were unacceptable and that he did not believe the Palestinians would go back to negotiations without a total Israeli freeze of settlement construction.

Muhammad Shtayyeh, another senior aide to Mr. Abbas and a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said the Israeli stalling over the prisoner release had been “humiliating,” adding, “This is a matter of dignity for the Palestinian people.”


Abbas Takes Defiant Step, and Mideast Talks Falter
New York Times, published in print on Wednesday, 2014-04-02

JERUSALEM — The Middle East peace talks verged on a breakdown Tuesday night, after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority defied the United States and Israel by taking concrete steps to join 15 international agencies — a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiations process.

Mr. Abbas’s actions, which appeared to catch American and Israeli officials by surprise, prompted Secretary of State John Kerry to cancel a planned return to the region on Wednesday, in which he had expected to complete an agreement extending negotiations through 2015.

In that emerging deal, the United States would release an American convicted of spying for Israel more than 25 years ago, while Israel would free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and slow down construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Abbas, who had vowed not to seek membership in international bodies until the April 29 expiration of the talks that Mr. Kerry started last summer, said he was taking this course because Israel had failed to release a fourth batch of long-serving Palestinian prisoners by the end of March, as promised.

Israeli officials say they are not bound by their pledge because no meaningful negotiations have taken place since November.


President Obama has given Mr. Kerry
broad latitude to try to keep the process alive,
even authorizing him to discuss
the possible release of Jonathan J. Pollard,
a former Navy intelligence officer
serving a life sentence in the United States for espionage,
whose release Israel has long sought.
That would only be as part of a broader package of measures
that American officials said
would give the negotiations a genuine chance to succeed.

["A genuine chance to succeed".
What bullshit.
What on earth does the release of an American convicted of spying for Israel
have to do with resolving the issues between Israel and the Palestinians?
And if Pollard is not released (as I certainly hope he is not)
why would that reduce the "chance to succeed" for the negotiations?
It could only do so if Israel is making his release a requirement.
And even if he is released,
what is Israel offering to give up for that gift to them?
"A chance to succeed"??????
Everyone knows what that means.
It means absolutely nothing.
There is no firm commitment whatsoever from the Israelis.
Why on earth American would give up something for a pie-in-the-sky promise
can only be attributed to the undesirable control American Jews have
over America.]

Such a move would antagonize the nation’s intelligence agencies,
senior officials said,
but might be worth the cost to keep the talks from collapsing.
Mr. Pollard is eligible for parole in 2015, they noted,
so his value as a bargaining chip is diminishing.

[Being eligible for parole is not, for most prisoners,
the same thing as being paroled.
I have read several news stories about prisoners who come up for parole time after time,
but the parole board always turns them down.
But of course Pollard is a Jew.
Do they have different probabilities for being paroled than gentiles?]

Mr. Obama, officials said, was in frequent contact with Mr. Kerry
when both were in Europe last week,
and during Mr. Kerry’s travels there this week.
The president has rejected previous pleas by the Israelis to release Mr. Pollard,
but with Mr. Kerry having invested so deeply in the peace process, officials said,
Mr. Obama wanted to back him up.

Whether, and how, to use Mr. Pollard
has been vigorously debated within the administration.
While some officials argue that he should be used
only to break the logjam on final-status issues —
the borders of a new Palestinian state, for example —
Mr. Kerry has argued that these issues will all be decided as a package at the end of the talks.
Mr. Kerry has argued that Mr. Pollard could be more useful now in keeping the talks alive,
given the possibility of parole, according to officials.


Standoff Over Prisoner Release Threatens Mideast Talks
New York Times, 2014-03-24

JERUSALEM — The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks revived by Washington last summer are scheduled to continue until April 29, but a showdown — and possible breakdown — is likely this week over the anticipated release of a fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has recently indicated that unless the prisoners are freed as promised on March 29, he will not consider any extension of the negotiations past the deadline. But a growing number of Israeli leaders have threatened to halt the release unless the talks are extended. That chicken-and-egg problem is further complicated by Mr. Abbas’s demand that Arab-Israeli prisoners be included, something the Israelis insist they never agreed to and vigorously oppose.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s initial goal of having the two sides reach a final-status agreement during the nine-month talks was abandoned long ago, and the framework outlining core principles of a deal that he has been pressing for the past two months has now been all but shelved.

Instead, Martin Indyk, the Obama administration’s envoy for the peace process, has spent the past two days meeting with negotiators here and in the West Bank to try to unravel the Gordian knot the sides have tied over the emotional question of releasing prisoners.

“We are entering a critical stage,” Yitzhak Aharonovich, one of five Israeli ministers responsible for approving the list of prisoners for release, said Sunday on Israel Radio. “Commitments must be honored,” he said. “The question is, does the other side honor the commitments?” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, released a statement on Sunday saying that the Israeli government was “hellbent on destroying the two-state solution and the prospects of peace.”

“We have been as committed as possible in order to finally allow our people a life free of occupation,” Mr. Erekat said. “But there will have to come a time when we, and the U.S., must say enough is enough.”

American officials involved in the talks have become more pessimistic about their prospects as they watch a familiar blame game already beginning about who should be held responsible if the negotiations collapse. The seriousness of the situation has led to renewed discussions over the possible release of Jonathan J. Pollard, an American serving a life sentence in North Carolina for spying for Israel, which those involved in the process see as a powerful card that Washington wants to play at the right moment for maximum effect.

Although Israelis, Palestinians and Americans all have an interest in extending the talks, analysts say, the politics surrounding the impending prisoner release may be too much to overcome, particularly given a recent flare-up in violence.


Palestinian prisoners are a potent symbol on both sides of the conflict. The first three releases, of 26 prisoners each in August, October and December, set off searing protests by Israeli relatives of their victims, along with homecoming parades by exuberant Palestinians.

Israel committed to freeing 104 long-serving prisoners as part of the negotiations, in exchange for a Palestinian vow to refrain from pressing for statehood through United Nations organizations and the International Criminal Court. But without a promise to extend the talks, Israeli ministers, including Tzipi Livni, the prime promoter of the peace process, see little point in paying a political price at home for releasing prisoners only to have Mr. Abbas take the international steps a few weeks later that Israel fears.

To head off criticism from those who might say they are balking on a promise, Israeli leaders argue that the release was to be a result of nine months of negotiations, which have not really taken place: The last substantive meeting between the sides was in November. “The keys to the prison doors are in the hands of Abu Mazen,” Ms. Livni said last week, using the Palestinian president’s nickname. There was never, she added, an “automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to progress in negotiations.”

If the prisoners are not released, Mr. Abbas told leaders of his Fatah faction on Saturday, it would be a violation of the agreement and allow them to “act however we see fit within the norms of international agreements.” Last week, the Palestinians published a list of prisoners, including 14 citizens of Israel, that their leaders say Mr. Kerry approved last summer as he cajoled them to restart the talks.

But Israeli leaders say Mr. Kerry never got their approval for including Israeli Arabs. Their release would be even more controversial because they live among their victims’ relatives and because many Israelis question Mr. Abbas’s effort to represent Israeli citizens as part of his constituency.

“Things happened during Kerry’s mediation,” Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s defense minister, said in a recent television interview. “Maybe Abu Mazen received from Kerry” such a promise, Mr. Yaalon said, but it was not one “Kerry received from the Israeli government.”

For the release to occur as scheduled, five Israeli ministers must approve a list of names on Wednesday. Another possibility is a postponement until after next week’s convention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, where he faces a challenge from conservatives opposed to all prisoner releases. That, though, would open a door for Mr. Abbas to walk away.

“We are going to see a crisis,” warned Shlomo Brom, director of the program on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. “What the talks showed us is that the gaps and mutual distrust are much deeper than we thought. It is exactly an expression of mutual distrust when everyone is conditioning every confidence-building measure on what the other will do.”

Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst, said the battle over prisoners showcased the shallowness of the process so far.

“This is not the substance of the conflict — the conflict is about borders, about land, about settlements,” said Mr. Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah and a former spokesman for the Palestinian government. “Everybody is desperate for a resumption of talks, but nobody can afford making them productive. Nobody is talking about substance anymore.”

Netanyahu Agrees to Free 104 Palestinians
New York Times, 2013-07-28

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced Saturday that he had agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom have served 20 years or more for attacks on Israelis, to pave the way for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Washington in the coming days.

Mr. Netanyahu took the unusual measure of issuing what he called “an open letter to the citizens of Israel” to explain the contentious move, which many Israelis oppose, ahead of a cabinet vote on Sunday.

Reports of a prisoner release had been circulating for weeks, but this was the first confirmation by the prime minister of the number expected to be freed. Mr. Netanyahu’s letter did not give any details regarding the identities of those to be released or the timing, but said the release would be carried out in stages after the start of negotiations and in accordance with their progress.

The talks were expected to begin Tuesday after months of intense shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr. Netanyahu began his letter, which was posted on the prime minister’s Web site and disseminated through the Israeli news media, with an acknowledgment of the unpopularity of the gesture, which many Israelis view as a painful concession with nothing guaranteed in return.

“From time to time prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion — when the matter is important for the country,” he wrote. He added that the decision “is painful for the bereaved families, it is painful for the entire nation, and it is also very painful for me. It collides with the incomparably important value of justice.”

On Friday, Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper, published an impassioned open letter to Mr. Netanyahu from Abie Moses, whose pregnant wife and 5-year-old son, Tal, were fatally burned in a firebomb attack on their car in April 1987. Mr. Moses said that faced with the likely release of their killer, Mohammad Adel Hassin Daoud, “the wounds have reopened; the memories, which we live with on a daily basis, turn into physical pain, in addition to the emotional pain of coping daily with the nightmare.”

Mr. Moses added, “In our opinion, if his release will lead to attaining of peace, let him be released outside the boundaries of Palestine, exiled and never allowed to see his family members again, just as we cannot see ours.”

Over the years, thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been exchanged for Israeli soldiers who had been taken captive, or for the bodies of abducted soldiers. During his previous term in office, Mr. Netanyahu reached an agreement with Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza, and exchanged more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had been held captive in Gaza for five years.

An Israeli government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said many of those who remained in Israeli jails, like the 104 now chosen for early release, had been involved in particularly gruesome acts.

“The goal here is to augment the political dialogue with confidence-building measures,” the official said, adding that the cabinet was expected to approve the release. In moves meant to appease the more right-wing elements in the government, the cabinet is also expected to discuss legislation for a referendum on any peace deal and to set up a special ministerial committee to deal with the negotiations.

But the prisoner issue is the one that has inflamed passions on both sides. Palestinians view these long-serving prisoners, convicted before the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, as political prisoners whose release is long overdue.

A Palestinian official involved in the negotiations process, who could speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate diplomacy under way, said the Palestinian side had given a list of all 104 pre-Oslo prisoners to Mr. Kerry, who conveyed it to the Israelis. Israel had previously balked at including 22 prisoners who are Arab citizens of Israel or residents of East Jerusalem. Israeli officials have so far refused to say whether those objections have been dropped.

“This is the biggest achievement we will have had this year,” the Palestinian official said.

He said the first group was expected to be released in August, and the rest within six months.

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