PLO Source: Promise to Free Jailed Israeli Arabs Crucial

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says decision 14 years late, as in 1999 Israel agreed to free all the prisoners held from before the signing of the Oslo Accords.

After the cabinet decision to release Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks will leave for Washington as planned for talks with Israel, which are scheduled to start Monday night.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hesitated on Sunday morning over freeing Israeli Arab prisoners, the Palestinian Authority demanded and received an American promise that there had been no changes in previous agreements and that the entire group of 104 prisoners the Palestinians demanded would be released, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official told Haaretz. As a result, the PLO's negotiations department decided not to worry about the announcement that the release of Israeli Arab citizens would be brought up for a separate vote, and instead views the matter merely as a tactical maneuver on Netanyahu's part.

Long-time Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is supposed to leave Monday for Washington with his Fatah colleague Mohammed Shtayyeh, said the decision was 14 years late, as in 1999 Israel had agreed to free all the prisoners held from before the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords.

In Ramallah on Sunday, Palestinian police dispersed a demonstration by some 200 activists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who were protesting the renewal of the talks. Police beat men and women with clubs, injuring dozens and sending a number of them to the hospital, according to a press release from the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. Palestinian police came to the hospital and arrested three of the injured and another uninjured demonstrator. Palestinian news agency Maan reported three demonstrators were hurt along with four policemen, one of whom was hit in the face by a rock.

AP