Report: Abbas asked Gantz to free 25 prisoners during December meeting

As PA residents increasingly embrace Hamas, embattled Palestinian president reportedly asked for prisoners to be freed to strengthen his administration.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked Defense Minister Benny Gantz to free 25 prisoners currently incarcerated in Israel who are affiliated with his Fatah political party during a December meeting at Gantz’s Rosh HaAyin home.

According to Hebrew-language daily Yediot Ahronot, Abbas originally made the request in August 2021 when Gantz visited Ramallah, and he repeated his request at a second meeting last month.

Gantz reportedly maintained a neutral stance on what the PA premier said was a goodwill gesture, telling Abbas that “the matter would be investigated.”

The report indicated that many of the 25 Fatah members on the list, who were convicted of serious terror offenses, have been in Israeli prison since before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed, and some of them are suffering from terminal illnesses.

Abbas reportedly told Gantz that the prisoner release would provide good optics for his administration, which is struggling to maintain its legitimacy as the majority of PA residents have expressed that they prefer Hamas to the embattled octogenarian.

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An October 2021 report by Channel 12 News said that Gantz made dovish overtures to the floundering leader, whom 80 percent of Palestinians think should resign due to widespread corruption and the high-profile killing of a political activist, which sparked protests across PA-controlled cities.

“I believe in the two-state solution and believe it is the appropriate solution,” Gantz reportedly announced to Abbas.

“I want to be the new Rabin, but in this government there are limits,” he said, referencing the former Israeli general who signed the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat and was slain not long afterwards.

Gantz’s office released a laconic statement in response to the report. The quotes were “not exact,” said a spokesperson, who demurred from commenting further.

In 2013, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu released 26 Palestinian prisoners in a deal brokered by John Kerry, who was at that time serving as U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration.