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Prisoner Release Paves Way to Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks

World  (tags: world, palestine, israel, usa, ethics, 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', conflict, freedoms, government, GoodNews )

- 1762 days ago -
Israel has agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, paving the way to peace talks between the two for the first time in three years. The talks are slated to begin tonight and continue into Tuesday.

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John C (75)
Monday July 29, 2013, 7:23 pm
This is a "hopeful" as well as significant advancement of a process that has been stalled for way too long.
It has been stalled because only the U.S. has had ownership over it. When it failed we failed. Not Israel or Palestine. Only when "THEY" own the process can success be expected.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 7:30 pm

I have decided to not be too hopeful. I think everyone wants peace but to achieve peace or a lack of war, means compromise and egos on the table. Let's just be tentatively hopeful that something good or better is the offing. I do tend to agree with John, though I can not see the US surrendering that, but for real peace to happen the "neighbors" need to talk things over.

JL A (281)
Monday July 29, 2013, 7:33 pm
Excellent observations John and Kit. Unfortunately I'm told: You cannot currently send a star to John or Kit because you have done so within the last day.

John C (75)
Monday July 29, 2013, 7:39 pm
I can't send a star to either of you either.
What makes this process so difficult to resolve is the one thing that has not been put on the table. Many things are not taken off the table. The single most important thing was never placed on it. Hubris!

JL A (281)
Monday July 29, 2013, 7:41 pm
Yes--hubris does interfere with positive relationships and with negotiations wherever it appears.

Alan Lambert (91)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:54 pm
Major kudos to Sec'y Kerry for spearheading this...

Helen Porter (39)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:29 am
So they're going to release the ones who want to kill them?

It just isn't fair.

This is their land.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:08 am
Whatever will or will not come out of this, the prisoner release is indeed a great first step and success.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 9:47 am
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last day.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:10 am
Yes please Mr. Kerry lets all drink the hudaibiyah Kool-aid. Both Fatah and Hamas think you're a joke and the Israelis in their desire for peace and love from the world will release prisoners who they will meet again very soon on the battlefield. You can not have peace Angelika when the very partners for peace have vowed to exterminate you.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:12 am
The US and the rest of the world should stay out of the Middle East and let them all settle their differences once and for all. The rest of the nations should be fixing their own myriad morass of domestic problems.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:15 am
Excellent observations Theodore regarding outsiders' involvement.

Joanne D (38)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:20 am
This is hopeful and we are not alone in agreeing so. I get email from (and sign letters for) several organizations working for peace, not least of which is the international Jewish Voices for Peace.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:43 am
You cannot currently send a star to Joanne because you have done so within the last day.

Sheila D (194)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 12:19 pm
Reserving judgment because I really do no trust Israel. It mat be releasing prisoners, but nothing has been said about which prisoners...don't really think they will let go of any true terrorists against them. As far as giving up land it still holds, not certain where their thoughts are on that. Then there's Kerry...what will the US gain with peace? Have gotten a bit behind on my World events so have questions without answers, or even an opinion (believe it or not!). Thank you.

Joanne D (38)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 1:26 pm
Americans for Peace Now is another organization, and I just got an email from tehem which included this (partial) interview: (more at

Hard Questions, Tough Answers with Yossi Alpher: July 29, 2013

Q. How do you understand Netanyahu's motives for agreeing to release terrorists from Israeli jails as an entry ticket to two-state solution negotiations in Washington?

A. PM Netanyahu is an extremely skilful politician who regularly either conceals his real intentions or acts (successfully from his standpoint) on the basis of very short-term considerations in the absence of any more lasting values. So answering this question is an exercise in speculation based essentially on years of Netanyahu-watching.

Q. Why did Netanyahu end up agreeing to release terrorist murderers rather than accept what appear to be alternative Palestinian preconditions: the 1967 lines or a settlement freeze?

A. Considering how agonizing Sunday's Cabinet decision regarding release of "pre-Oslo" terrorists was for many ministers and the public at-large, this is a valid question that contributes to our understanding of Netanyahu's possible motives.

Q. So talks begin formally in Washington on Monday. What will the first crisis of substance be about?

A. Knowing the positions of the two sides, and assuming they both accept Kerry's request that they begin by discussing borders and security, three immediate areas of disagreement come to mind...

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 1:28 pm
You are welcome GGma.
You cannot currently send a star to Joanne because you have done so within the last day.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 2:37 pm
Apparently the 104 include a bus-bomber (in prison for 6 counts of homicide), a serial murderer/torturer (16 counts of murder, 16 for torture-related offenses), and a child-rapist/murderer (whose victim was a 13 year old boy) are among the 104. I'm fairly confident that at least the bus-bomber was a politically motivated terrorist. That the PA wants the release of any of these people, politically motivated or not, is disturbing.

Anyways, the talks seem to have already begun to break down:
Alexa's article and my comment there as to why Abbas' promise, if kept, will eventually become a deal-breaker, even after the fact. If his promise at the outset of negotiations is broken, he will never be able to get Palestinians to go along with any deal he signs.

S J (130)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:39 pm
I hope for real and perpetual peace between the two.

Noted, thanks JL A.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:50 pm
The article link provided in an earlier comment includes zero information about any prisoner identities so impossible for me to confirm it is anything beyond pure speculation.

You are welcome SJ

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 4:57 pm
The one thing the article in the Jerusalem publication said was there would be a separate vote on Israeli Arabs, who were not included in the 104. The linked article on the vote indicated very little contentiousness about release and only two votes against it.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:02 pm

JVP is an excellent source for information. Interesting comments here.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:08 pm
JVP did present a factual account that indicated that many aspects of issues did not seem contentious but rather likely to find agreement.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:38 pm

From the dubious article that Stephen found so gripping.

" Abbas said that no Israeli settlers or border forces could remain in a future Palestinian state and that Palestinians deem illegal all Jewish settlement building within the land occupied in the 1967 Six Days War."

That seems an acceptable beginning volley to me. Everyone talks about going back to 1967 borders, well not the self-proclaimed winner. Nothing can move backwards, but some of the more offensive damage, the Walls of Shame should be removed, and there must be a final end to settlements on Palestinian lands.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:42 pm
Thanks Kit--that was the only issue covered that seemed less than easy but is where all negotiations have always begun, so no major surprise to any who have been following the history of negotiations.
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Diane K (134)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 7:12 pm
Thanks, JL

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 7:40 pm
You are welcome Diane.

Stan B (123)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:26 pm
I can't see how releasing 104 Palestinian terrorists and murderers is going to help the peace process. Most if not all of them will be back killing and wounding Israelis as soon as they've been welcomed home as heroes.
The only conclusion I can come to is that the Obama administration has put immense pressure on Israel to release these low-lives in exchange for more aggressive U.S. action against Iran. Time will tell.

JL A (281)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 9:46 pm
Facilitated peace negotiations never have any negotiated elements related to countries not at the table.
There is no evidence the US pushed particularly for the release of the 104 primarily political prisoners--such is a fairly typical convention to indicate good-faith; if both countries had prisoners, it would've been a prisoner exchange.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:39 pm
Hi JLA :)

My information about the prisoners did not come from that article. I've been trying to track down the original source on it, but the source from which I got it (someone I've known personally for years) tends to be reliable. Here is a fuller account, though it doesn't go into the specifics of all of the criminals released:
Also, murderers are not primarily political prisoners. They are primarily standard criminals or war-criminals, depending on the nature of the crime.

Hi Kit,

Here's the problem with kicking out all of the settlers: There will still be Palestinians living in Israel when this is all over. That doesn't seem like a huge issue in the West because we mostly don't have a problem with irridentism, separatists who want to join another country. It can be an issue when a country has communities dominated by ethnic groups that identify with a neighboring country. The classic solution for host-countries is to keep that country's government from supporting them by demanding a land-swap, if they separate, to gain territory dominated by communities which identify with separatists' host-country. Where that solution cannot be applied, preventing such communities from seeking independence and joining a neighboring state has traditionally been cited as a cause for war, where the neighbor attempts to "liberate" those who identify with it. Without settlers staying in a Palestinian state, as Palestinian citizens (though effectively under Israeli protection in case of persecution), the peaceful solution to the problem cannot be applied. No, shutting down the only known effective peaceful solutions to problems which are expected to arise after any possible conclusion to the negotiations is not a reasonable "beginning volley". It's a declaration of bad faith.

Devon Leonar (54)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 2:50 am
I'm thankful that there is hope for peace.

Stan B (123)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 3:43 am
According to Haaretz, the prisoners identified by the Palestinian Prisoner Society have been involved in the death of some 55 Israeli civilians, 15 Israeli soldiers, one French tourist, and dozens of Palestinians thought to have collaborated with Israel.
Yep, they sure seem like political prisoners JL A.

Lona G (80)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:00 am
A step forward, but I'm not holding my breath. They've been there before, but it led to nothing then.

JL A (281)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 7:33 am
Israel has lots of people of different races/ethnicities in their population--the presence of Palestinians doesn't alter that for them. However the reverse is not also true with how the historical control of Palestine's borders has been done so seems to be a straw issue.
Haartz reports Netanyahu's popularity increased with the talks beginning and that a major incentive is to avoid having it all at the UN in September. It also reports all have been held since before 1993 -- since before the Oslo Accords were signed. All are at least 20 years older than when arrested and have served at least a 20 years term in jail (longer than many murder terms in the US for crimes before 1993). Only subscribers can get more detail from this source so I cannot verify Stan's assertions.

JL A (281)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 7:42 am
Seems that the term political prisoner applies here no matter what the allegation was:

Political prisoner
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) member Sabino Arana in Larrinaga prison, Bilbao, 1895. He defended independence for Cuba.
Nelson Mandela painted portrait
Sahrawi activist Ali Salem Tamek in Ait Melloul prison, Agadir, 2005. He was incarcerated on accusation of "incitement to trouble the public order"

A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible.

The term is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the detention of a prisoner. Supporters of the term define a political prisoner as someone who is imprisoned for his or her participation in political activity. If a political offense was not the official reason for detention, the term would imply that the detention was motivated by the prisoner's politics.

1 Various definitions
2 Notable Groups of Political Prisoners
3 Famous historic political prisoners
4 See also
5 References
6 Further reading

Various definitions

Some understand the term political prisoner narrowly, equating it with the term prisoner of conscience (POC). Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience, which include both political prisoners as well as those imprisoned for their religious or philosophical beliefs. To reduce controversy, and as a matter of principle, the organization's policy applies only to prisoners who have not committed or advocated violence. Thus, there are political prisoners who do not fit the narrower criteria for POCs. The organisation defines the differences as follows:[1]

AI uses the term “political prisoner” broadly. It does not use it, as some others do, to imply that all such prisoners have a special status or should be released. It uses the term only to define a category of prisoners for whom AI demands a fair and prompt trial. In AI's usage, the term includes any prisoner whose case has a significant political element: whether the motivation of the prisoner's acts, the acts in themselves, or the motivation of the authorities. “Political” is used by AI to refer to aspects of human relations related to “politics”: the mechanisms of society and civil order, the principles, organization, or conduct of government or public affairs, and the relation of all these to questions of language, ethnic origin, sex or religion, status or influence (among other factors). The category of political prisoners embraces the category of prisoners of conscience, the only prisoners who AI demands should be immediately and unconditionally released, as well as people who resort to criminal violence for a political motive. In AI's use of the term, here are some examples of political prisoners:

a person accused or convicted of an ordinary crime carried out for political motives, such as murder or robbery carried out to support the objectives of an opposition group;
a person accused or convicted of an ordinary crime committed in a political context, such as at a demonstration by a trade union or a peasants' organization;
a member or suspected member of an armed opposition group who has been charged with treason or “subversion”.

Governments often say they have no political prisoners, only prisoners held under the normal criminal law. AI however describes cases like the examples given above as “political” and uses the terms “political trial” and “political imprisonment” when referring to them. But by doing so AI does not oppose the imprisonment, except where it further maintains that the prisoner is a prisoner of conscience, or condemn the trial, except where it concludes that it was unfair.

In the parlance of many political movements that utilize armed resistance, guerrilla warfare, and other forms of political violence, a political prisoner includes people who are imprisoned because they are awaiting trial for, or have been convicted of, actions which states they oppose describe as (accurately or otherwise) terrorism. These movements may consider the actions of political prisoners morally justified against some system of governance, may claim innocence, or have varying understandings of what types of violence are morally and ethically justified. For instance, French anarchist groups typically call the former members of Action Directe held in France political prisoners. While the French government deemed Action Directe illegal, the group fashioned itself as an urban guerilla movement, claiming a legitimate armed struggle. In this sense, "political prisoner" can be used to describe any politically active prisoner who is held in custody for a violent action which supporters deem ethically justified.

Some[who?] also include all convicted for treason and espionage in the category of political prisoners. Currently, there is still much controversy and debate around how to define this term and which cases to include or exclude.[2]

Political prisoners can also be imprisoned with no legal veneer by extrajudicial processes. Some political prisoners need not be imprisoned at all. Supporters of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in the 11th Panchen Lama controversy have called him a "political prisoner", despite the fact that he is not accused of a political offense. He is held under secluded house arrest.[3]

Political prisoners are also arrested and tried with a veneer of legality where false criminal charges, manufactured evidence, and unfair trials (kangaroo courts, show trials) are used to disguise the fact that an individual is a political prisoner. This is common in situations which may otherwise be decried nationally and internationally as a human rights violation or suppression of a political dissident. A political prisoner can also be someone that has been denied bail unfairly, denied parole when it would reasonably have been given to a prisoner charged with a comparable crime, or special powers may be invoked by the judiciary. Particularly in this latter situation, whether an individual is regarded as a political prisoner may depend upon subjective political perspective or interpretation of the evidence.[4]

M B (62)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 8:06 am
I have little hope and believe in the peace process... here's an e-mail I got today, read this:
Eight months ago, I was a high school English teacher living in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. After an amazing first semester with my students, I took a short vacation after first semester finals. On January 5, I arrived at the Israeli-controlled Jordanian-West Bank border at Allenby Bridge so that I could return to my home and job. Despite my U.S. citizenship, my one year multiple entry visa and residency permit granted by the Israeli government, and my work with a USAID-funded Quaker school – I was denied entry after six hours of waiting and with no explanation whatsoever.

What followed were months of being stranded in Jordan, a country to which I have no ties, only to be denied entry again a second time after being advised by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to try again at Ben Gurion airport. This time, I was interrogated for even longer periods, then denied, strip searched, processed for deportation, taken to an off-site detention center, denied an emergency hearing by an Israeli judge, and deported back to Jordan the following morning for a second time.

My story is not an oddity. Perhaps the details of my work and organizational affiliation are unique, but it is not a special case or a rare occurrence. My story is one of hundreds every year of U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent, Arab descent, Muslim faith, persons of color, or simply tourists who Israel arbitrarily denies entry and deems “security threats.

As someone who was raised in Tennessee and grew up with stories of a Jim Crow past, I immediately saw the parallels of racist and discriminatory policies as I sat, twice, in waiting rooms with individuals singled out and treated like criminals simply for being of a certain ethnicity, religion, or political viewpoint.

When I was pulled out of my jail cell later that night to take a call from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, I was told nothing could really be done to help me “when it comes to Israel.”

Today, Congress is considering passing bills that would not only codify this discrimination against U.S. citizens, but also reward it. Both versions of the United States-Israel Strategic Partner Act of 2013 (S. 462, H.R. 938) include a provision for a visa waiver agreement with Israel. If the Senate version of this bill passes, it would give Israel the right to do what no other country in the world that is a part of the visa waiver program is given permission to do – allow it to continue to deny entry to any U.S. citizen, while allowing Israelis to enter the United States without a visa.

JL A (281)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:27 am
A petition related to the legislation Monka mentions is available at:

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:59 pm
Hi JL :)

"However the reverse is not also true with how the historical control of Palestine's borders has been done so seems to be a straw issue." No, that's exactly why it is such an important issue. Look at the treatment of minorities prior to 1967, or in general in places under Arabic control, and especially of Jews from Israel. Then there is the asymmetry on top of that, which can easily lead to war, or at least be used as a pretext to raise support for war within a country and to the international community (like in the Russian-Georgian conflict, with Germany and Alsace-Lorraine, and in the Iraqi rationale that Kuwait was ethnically Iraqi and so should be governed by Iraq in the Gulf War).

Also, regarding their status as political prisoners: Under the broader definition, the release of political prisoners is not, in a general sense, a normal gesture of good faith. If they are guilty of major regular crimes like murder, or war-crimes, like membership in a unit of a combatant force which habitually engages in war-crimes, then such release may occur at the end of negotiations with a peace-deal. It is extraordinarily rare as a gesture of good faith before both parties are thoroughly convinced that violence will not resume.

Hi Monika :)

It is a fairly common thing. Do you know where the English teacher went on vacation? Depending on what countries were listed, and when they were visited, Israel may have denied entry on those grounds. It's a problem, especially for people who have families in countries with which Israel has poor relations and want to visit them. It may also have only permitted entry initially because an organization requested it rather than an individual, so it could have been a matter of requesting through the right channels. It's seriously screwed up: I have a friend who wants to visit Israel, but can't do it on her passport from Bangladesh. I have another friend who expressed an interest in visiting, but I advised her not to go because she is exploring her faith an may wish to visit Saudi Arabia, which might deny her entry if she visits Israel first, just as Israel might deny her entry if she visits Saudi Arabia first.

John C (75)
Friday August 2, 2013, 8:17 pm
We should not be so involved overseas, Certainly not because I don't care. I do.
I expect those to care as much rather than bring their dysfunction to me to fix.

JL A (281)
Friday August 2, 2013, 8:27 pm
Thanks John--excellent observation. And kudos for ignoring the comment filled with either misinformation or disinformation.

JL A (281)
Friday August 2, 2013, 8:34 pm
Facts on visas at:
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