The Israeli Cabinet approved the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, paving the way toward resuming peace talks after five years of paralysis, an official confirmed.
In Sunday’s contentious Cabinet session, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged ministers to approve the release in order to continue negotiations. They voted in favor 13-7.
Two ministers of Mr. Netanyahu’s own Likud Party voted no, an official told the Associated Press. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called the release “lunacy,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Cabinet approved the release in four stages over several months, with each step linked to progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks. The prisoners have served between 19 and 30 years for involvement in deadly attacks on Israelis, the AP reported.
“Prime ministers are occasionally required to make decisions that are contrary to public opinion, when the matter is one of importance to the state,” Mr. Netanyahu said Saturday evening in a public letter to help gain support, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to Israel Today, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper, polling found that 78 percent of Israeli Jews oppose the release of Palestinian prisoners, regardless if doing so helps in diplomatic talks.