Israel's Cabinet today (July 28, 2013) approved the release of 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners, clearing a major hurdle toward a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after five years, as the U.S. pushes to bring the two sides back to the table, the Newser website reports.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will next hold preliminary talks in Washington on July 30, to be followed by up to nine months of negotiations on a peace deal. The Cabinet voted 13-7 with two abstentions to approve in principle the release of 104 prisoners, said a government official.
The vote came after a stormy session in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu linked the release to a resumption of talks even as relatives of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks protested outside. "I believe this is a step toward peace and I hope that we can use this opportunity to resume negotiations," said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekal.
Under the deal -- brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry -- the prisoners would be released in four stages over several months. Each release would be linked to progress in negotiations.