Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, stated that Israel is trying to use the issue of releasing some Palestinian political prisoners to politically blackmail the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations.Barghouthi said that the Israeli decision to release 104 detainees as a “gesture of good will” is not an act of kindness but an overdue responsibility that was supposed to be carried out 20 years ago.

“This release is 20 years late, years lost behind bars”, Barghouthi stated, “They were supposed to be release in 1993 when the first Oslo Agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization”.

He also said that the Israeli decision is vague and loaded with traps, as Israel conditions the gradual release of those detainees with the progress of peace talks.

“Israeli Minister of Justice, Tzipi Livni, said that the gradual release depends on progress of direct talks”, Barghouthi said, “This means Israel is blackmailing the Palestinians in order to oblige them to provide concessions”.

The Palestinian official also said that the legitimate Palestinian struggle for liberation and independence is the struggle of more than 4800 detainees.

“Those detainees sacrificed their freedom for the freedom of their people, not for partial agreements”, he added, “What is happening now is very serious, direct talks are about to resume while Israel continues its illegal settlement activities, and ongoing with its violations against the Palestinians and their lands”.

He also said that Israel is performing its old tactics of using direct talks to cover-up its illegal settlement construction and expansion activities, and without any intention to stop its invasions, violations and assaults.