Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to release political prisoners in exchange for the Palestinian Authority dropping its upcoming bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations.In a move to avoid a showdown at the United Nations in coming months, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has offered prisoner release in exchange for Palestine dropping its bid for UN membership, reports Ma’an News. Up to 50 prisoners would be involved in the prospective exchange. The Hebrew-language publication Maariv also reported the announcement.
In addition to the release of prisoners, Netanyahu offered to return to the peace negotiations that he walked away from nearly two years ago.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been planning to seek official state recognition at the United Nations for more than two years. The Abbas government knows that it has the support of the vast majority of the voting members of the UN General Assembly. Other than the United States, Palestine’s statehood bid is likely to have the support, or at worst the abstention, of the other ‘veto’ members of the UN Security Council.
The decision by Netanyahu to offer prisoner release is important on several levels. No state would release actual terrorists as doing so would combine negotiating with terrorists, caving to the demands of terrorism, and undermining the safety of the country and its people. Many of the thousands of Palestinians currently detained in Israeli prisoners have been implicitly linked to terrorism. Their release would be a ready admission by the Israeli government that the prisoners it holds in indefinite detention do not present a real threat to Israeli safety and are instead ‘political prisoners’ – something expressly forbidden by international human rights law.
In addition to the admission that Israel arrest and detention policies are not expressly aimed toward building peace and security, the offered prisoner release may indicate that the Netanyahu government is running out of options to stall the Palestinian Authority.
The government in Ramallah already knows that any UN resolution would be vetoed by the United States and condemned by the few lock-step allies of Israel. Such a resolution would also potentially result in crippling economic sanctions on the already depressed Palestinian economy. Knowing the risks the PA has decided to continue pursuing its course and could bring a resolution to the General Assembly as early as next month.
The Palestinian Authority has offered no indication that it has considered Tel Aviv’s latest tactic to stall international recognition. Nimir Hammad, an advisor to the Palestinian President, refused to link any prospective UN bid with a prisoner release.