Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel would go ahead with the planned release of 26 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture, despite tension within the right-wing dominated government.
A ministerial committee, expected to meet this week, is likely to approve the release of a second group of Palestinian, languishing in Israeli jails for over 20 years for terror attacks on the Jewish state.
Palestinian Authority Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqi said that their leadership was planning a grand reception ceremony on Tuesday night for the 26 prisoners to be freed by Israel.
The Israeli cabinet approved the release of 104 Palestinian as a confidence building measure ahead of peace talks under US mediation in July. The first batch of 26 prisoners were released in August.
Israel said that it will release the prisoners in four batches over nine months.
A small ministerial committee was formed to deal with the releases, including Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya`alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Education Minister Yaakov Peri.
The group is expected to meet later today and then there will be a 48 hour window before the release actually occurs. The names of the prisoners to be released must be published in that window giving an opportunity for any opponent to appeal to the High Court of Justice.
In a meeting of Likud party ministers, Netanyahu said, "Promises must be kept. We have to honour government decisions even if it is difficult and unpleasant. We can`t constantly change our stance."
"We want to reach an accord with the Palestinians, primarily to ensure (Israel`s) security," the hawkish Israeli Premier said.
Right-wing politicians have urged Netanyahu not to approve any further releases following a string of attacks resulting in the death of two soldiers.
Bereaved families of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks continued to express their opposition to the planned release.
"It is an irresponsible move by the government and all those involved. They are releasing terrorists and murderers without getting anything in return, only for unfounded promises at the expense of my brother`s blood, as well as other victims," said Yaron Friedman from Nahariya who lost his brother, Guy, in a 1992 attack.