Israel is coming closer to releasing Fatah prisoners:
The cabinet approved on Sunday the proposed release of 250 Fatah security prisoners, but the actual list of names is being revised and will be brought to the ministers for approval at a later date, possibly in a week’s time.
The prisoners are expected to be members of Fatah who “did not have blood on their hands,” i.e. prisoners who had not personally participated in lethal terrorist attacks…
Following the vote, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said that in the last 13 years, releasing Palestinian prisoners had never translated to a gesture from the Palestinian Authority that would reduce terror activity, Israel Radio reported. — Jerusalem Post
Indeed, we might add that previous releases often resulted in increased terrorism, as the newly freed prisoners went back to ‘work’.
Meir Indor, who heads a terror victims’ association, is trying to prevent the prisoner release from happening.
In the last five years, 179 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists who were previously in prison, said Indor. Many of the former prisoners were freed as a result of politically motivated deals.
“Once you give them a second chance, they prove that they can do it better,” Indor said… CNS News
This action is distinct from the prisoner release demanded by Hamas in return for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, and is being done to “strengthen the Abbas government” in the West Bank.
Although it will provide an increment of additional manpower for Fatah to confront Hamas if it comes to that, a mini-civil war between Hamas and Fatah such as happened in Gaza is highly unlikely. Indeed, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already suggested that a Fatah/Hamas rapprochement is the way to go. And even some Fatah members seem to echo this:
Riad Maliki, the information minister in Abbas’s new government, said he expected the 250 prisoners to be former military men from pro-Fatah security forces. “If it were in our hands to chose … we would have chosen a group that more fairly represented the body of Palestinian prisoners, from all political groups,” Maliki said. — Jerusalem Post
So what, exactly, does Israel get out of this gesture, besides additional terrorists running around? Does it “strengthen Abbas” by increasing popular support for him? Hardly — Hamas simply paints this as collaboration with Israel:
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said a release of Fatah prisoners signaled that Abbas is collaborating with Israel. “He should have refused any release unless it includes all Palestinian prisoners,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert suggested that the release would improve the chances that Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in Gaza, would be released. It seems to me that it might even have the opposite effect, given that Hamas would not wish for Abbas to get credit for having any part in Shalit’s release.