Bethlehem – Ma'an – Over the past few days, serious progress has been made on wrapping up a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the captors of soldier Gilad Shalit, and several obstacles have been overcome through negotiations, our sources say.
However, neither side has yet confirmed that Israel approved a list of prisoners submitted by Hamas. The initial list has not included any Palestinian prisoners from inside Israel, or from Jerusalem.
According to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, Hamas added 40 new names of prisoners who are also residents of Israel, including Jerusalem. Some of these detainees have been serving time in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords.
This new Hamas initiative, according to Haaretz, renews hope that they too could be released given that Israel refused to set them free in the latest prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hizbullah. Israeli authorities once refused even discussing the release of such prisoners, while today observers suggest this latest proposal might be their last chance.
Haaretz quoted Muneer Mansour, a former Palestinian prisoner who was freed in the 1985 prisoner swap between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, as saying, "Israel's refusal to release prisoners who hold Israeli IDs was overlooked in the 1985 deal, and that could happen again with the Shalit deal."
Mansour added that Israel may find a legal pretext to prevent the release of these Palestinians, however, there are also legal precedents that support the possibility. For example, some of them have spent more than 25 years in custody, and were detained before the Oslo Accords, thus they should have already been freed, or should be released within a few years.
Mansour highlighted that in the 1985 deal, to avoid releasing a prisoner with an Israeli ID, Audi Adeeb, Israel reduced one third of his sentence, and thus he was released as if he had already completed it. "This could be repeated in the Shalit case," Mansour said.
According to Haaretz, 147 Palestinian prisoners hold Israeli IDs, not including prisoners from East Jerusalem. Twenty-two detainees of those 147 were arrested before Oslo, and 21 were serving life sentences. In addition to these, there are 450 prisoners in Israel from East Jerusalem who also hold Israeli IDs.