- Palestinian Authority cabinet member and Minister for Prisoner Affairs
Hisham Abdel-Razak is a Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet member and also serves as the PA’s Minister for Prisoner Affairs. He is best known for his repeated demands that as a precondition of any Mideast peace agreement, Israel must release all Palestinian prisoners in its custody, regardless of their crimes.
Razak gave voice to this theme in 1998, not long after the October 23 signing—by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat—of a land-for-peace agreement known as the Wye River Memorandum (WRM). According to the Jerusalem Post, “Israel’s main commitment” in the deal was to “transfer,” in three separate phases, “13% of West Bank land to either full or partial Palestinian control, [and] 14.2% of land under joint Israeli-Palestinian control into full Palestinian control.” All told, the Jewish state relinquished some 200 square miles of territory encompassing 28 towns. A second WRM provision called for Israel to release 750 Palestinian prisoners. But when the Israelis released 250 of these in November 1998, Razak complained that only 100 of them were “political prisoners” who belonged to what Israel classified as terrorist groups (such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad). Said Razak:
“Whoever thinks we’re happy is insane. The U.S. should immediately intervene to stop Israeli non-compliance with the (Wye) agreement. It’s a shame and a defeat for the Palestinian people.”
In July 2003, the Israeli cabinet agreed once more, reluctantly, to free several hundred additional Palestinian prisoners in an effort to bolster the U.S.-led “road map” to peace. But Israel again stipulated that it would not release any inmates who had “blood on their hands,” who were deemed to represent a danger to Israel’s security, or who were members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or other “rejectionist organizations.” Razak responded by declaring:
“If Israel does not decide … to release [these] Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian Authority will resign from the road map [for peace]. This is the most important issue for us. Israel must decide on principle that they will release all of the prisoners and implement the decision gradually. If this is not done then there will not be negotiations, no road map.”