Abbas welcomes released Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, receives released Palestinian prisoners in Ramallah, December 31, 2013. Photo by AP
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday for calling Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails "heroes." 

"The fundamental difference between us (and the Palestinians) can be seen on Monday: While we are willing to take painful, unparalleled steps to try and reach an agreement that would put an end to the conflict, they, along with their most senior leadership, are celebrating," Netanyahu said at the Seventh Galilee Conference in Tiberias. "Murderers are not heroes."

The prime minister added: "This is no way to educate toward peace. This is no way to make peace. Peace can be achieved only when the education toward incitement and toward the destruction of Israel is stopped. There will be peace only if our security and settlement interests are ensured. Peace will be established only if we could defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat."

Israel released Monday night 26 Palestinian prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords. Eighteen of the prisoners, which were released to the West Bank, were welcomed by Abbas and thousands of citizens in Ramallah. The eight prisoners from Gaza also received an official welcome. This is the third group of prisoners released since the peace negotiations with the Palestinians began last July.

Abbas addressed the freed prisoners and congratulated them, promising that there "will be more groups of heroes coming to us frequently in the near future, God willing… there will not be an agreement without guaranteeing the release of all of the heroic Palestinian prisoners."

The Palestinian president also criticized Israel for delaying the release of the prisoners by 24 hours. Abbas also attacked the Israeli government for supporting a bill to annex the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, located in the West Bank.

Under the agreement that restarted Israeli-Palestinian talks in July, Israel promised to release four batches of prisoners over the course of the nine months of the U.S.-brokered talks.

Thirty-two Palestinians who were arrested before the 1993 Oslo Accords remain in Israeli jails. They include 14 Arab Israelis; five residents of East Jerusalem; 10 from the West Bank and three from the Gaza Strip.