Gaza, ALRAY - "Ordering the Palestinian prisoners' release has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as prime minister," Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, following the political and public firestorm created by the Israel government's decision to forge ahead with the second phase of the goodwill gesture assured to the Palestinian Authority ahead of the resumption of the peace talks in August.
As the stalled peace talks resumed, Israel pledged to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, in four stages. The second phase of the plan included 26 prisoners who are released on Tuesday night.
"I am sure that any prime minister who has ever had to make a similar decision in the past has agonized over it as well, " Netanyahu said.
"My heart goes out to the bereaved families. This decision was a necessary evil, dictated by the reality we live in. We must navigate a complex international arena that presents us with multiple challenges. It mandates that we consider various factors and do what is best for Israel."
According to an Israel Radio report, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz added that from a strategic perspective, the price of a settlement construction freeze is much higher than the price of releasing prisoners.