Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas also blasts Israel’s decision to announce continued settlement construction.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that there would be no agreement with Israel as long as even one Palestinian remained in Israeli prison.
Abbas was speaking during a reception at the Mukata presidential compound in Ramallah for Palestinians released from Israeli prison.
After hugging and kissing each one of the freed prisoners, Abbas vowed to pursue his efforts to secure the release of all inmates.
Twenty-one prisoners were released to the West Bank, while another five were returned to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas did not hold a reception for them.
“We welcome and salute our veteran heroes who were behind bars and have now entered the world of freedom,” Abbas told the released prisoners and their families.
Abbas said that the third batch of prisoners would be released after two months.
“Now we are talking about 104 prisoners,” he added. “But our joy would not be complete unless all the prisoners are released.”
Abbas strongly denied that he had agreed to continued construction in the settlements in return for the release of prisoners.
He said that “unpatriotic” people were behind the rumors about a “prisoner-for-settlement” deal.
“Settlement is null and void,” Abbas said.
The PA condemned the Israeli government’s decision to build new housing units in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency, said that the decision was “destructive to the peace process.” He said that the new plans are a message to the international community that Israel does not abide by international law and continues to place obstacles in front of the peace process.
Abu Rudaineh said that the plans prompt the Palestinians and Arabs to lose confidence in the ability of the Israeli government to make peace.
“All the settlements are illegal,” he said. “No settlement will remain on Palestinian territories.”
Israel, meanwhile, was angered and concerned by the celebrations that greeted the freed terrorists in Ramallah.
“Every time we see the celebrations in Ramallah for people who are guilty of the most heinous crimes against innocent people – civilians, the elderly and children – this is problematic and always raises questions about whether the Palestinians have really turned the corner,” Mark Regev, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, said, pointing out that the Palestinians had committed themselves under the Oslo accords to no more terrorism.
“But instead of condemning terrorism, they are celebrating terrorists,” Regev stated. “I would ask the Palestinians what message they are sending to us when they celebrate their murderers, when they put them on a pedestal. And what is the message they are sending to Palestinian youth if they turn these people into heroes?” One government official said he did not know of any request sent by Israel to the Palestinian Authority, either directly or through the US, to tone down the celebrations. As was the case during the first prisoner release in August under the current negotiation framework, the 26 convicted terrorists set free Tuesday were released late at night both to reduce the size of the Palestinian celebrations and to limit the pictures of those festivities streaming into Israeli homes.
In a related development, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday, condemning a letter of condolence written by Abbas to the family of Mohamed Assi – a terrorist responsible for planning a Tel Aviv bus bombing attack last November that injured 29 people – who was killed last week during a firefight with IDF forces.
“With great pain we received the news of the martyr’s death, of the dear son, the late fighter Mohamed Assi, who was murdered by the killing gangs of the Occupation Army in cold blood,” Abbas wrote. “We express to all of you and to his distinguished family our sincere condolences on his passing and stress to you that the Occupation’s crimes will not frighten our people, and that the blood of all the martyrs will not be spilled in vain.”
“Terrorism does not begin with an attack on a bus or a café,” Prosor asserted. “That is how terrorism ends. Terrorism begins when its perpetrators are indoctrinated with words and thoughts of hate.”
Abbas’s letter was “just the most recent example of the incitement poisoning the next generation,” Prosor added. “In classrooms, textbooks, and houses of worship, Palestinian children are being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding.
I urge you to condemn the rise in incitement and to urge others in the international community to do the same.”