As a show of good will in the run-up to the Annapolis Appeasement Summit. And what show of good will have the Palestinians made?
By Josef Federman for AP (thanks to all who sent this in):
JERUSALEM (AP) “” The Israeli Cabinet on Monday approved the release of 441 Palestinian prisoners in a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but stopped short of U.S. demands to halt West Bank settlement construction before a crucial Mideast conference.
The Cabinet vote took place ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas later in the day. The two men were trying to break a deadlock in preparations for the U.S.-hosted peace summit, which is expected to take place in Annapolis, Md., next week.
Israel sees the conference primarily as a ceremonial launching pad for new peace efforts, while the Palestinians want a more detailed plan for how post-conference talks will proceed.
Seeking to drum up support for the conference, Olmert is heading to Egypt on Tuesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak, his office said. Arab League members are to decide on Friday whether they will join the gathering. High-level Arab attendance is seen as crucial to the success of nascent peace moves.
With the outcome of Annapolis uncertain, Israel has been under U.S. pressure to take steps, including a settlement freeze and a large-scale release of Palestinian prisoners, to bolster Abbas.
The Cabinet overwhelmingly approved Olmert’s proposal to release 441 prisoners. Although the release would be the largest in years, it fell short of Palestinian calls to free some 2,000 prisoners. Israel holds an estimated 9,000 Palestinian prisoners.
“We welcome the release of any prisoners,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki. “But this is not enough. We will continue demanding the release of all prisoners.”
And they’ll probably get it, eventually.