Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not intend to abort the second phase of the prisoner release which he pledged within the framework of resuming direct peace talks with the Palestinians, but he also intends to accelerate certain building projects in Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu was planning to divulge the identities of the 32 convicted terrorists comprising the second batch of Palestinian prisoners during the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office did not reveal which building projects were to be greenlighted, the number of housing units in question, or which programs the government would seek to advance in order to ease pressure on Netanyahu for his decision to fulfill his obligation and release the convicted terrorists.
A senior political official said on Thursday that "Israel will stand behind all its obligations with the resumption of negotiations. At the same time a new construction initiative is expected to be announced."
The Prime Minister's Office denied reports that Israel was going to return the bodies of terrorists in the current phase.
An unnamed official told Reuters that "both the Americans and the Palestinians have been aware of these understandings." There was no immediate comment from either of those parties.
According to the Associated Press, an unnamed Israeli official said that any new construction would take place inside the major settlement blocs that Israel would likely keep in a future peace deal.
The announcement came a day after Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Rome, where the Israeli-Palestinian talks were on the agenda.
Meanwhile, dissension within the government has grown over the second phase of the prisoner release. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) criticized the prime minister's willingness to release terrorists, despite Netanyahu's pledge to keep building in the settlements, the support center of Bennett's party.
"The attempt to combine construction with freeing murderers is cynical and morally wrong. It would be better for the prime minister not to free murderers and not to build," he said.
Habayit Hayehudi announced on Thursday it planned to propose a bill on Sunday that would prevent future prisoner releases.
The new bill "would stop the shameful release of terrorist prisoners in the future and we even expect Likud ministers to support [it]," said Habayit Heyehudi in a press release. The bill has also received signatures from MKs in Netanyahu's Likud party and United Torah Judaism.
Earlier this week, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, also a Likud member, said the government would not backtrack on the prisoner release. He said the recent wave of violence sweeping the West Bank -- including terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and one former colonel -- would also have no effect on government plans.
The forum of bereaved families and the Almagor Terror Victims Association -- which protested the deal from the outset -- released a candid letter highlighting the recent spate of West Bank violence and demanding deliberations over the upcoming prisoner release.
"The reality in the [Palestinian] territories shows that terror is only intensifying and making progress, exacting the heavy price of Israeli victims. Seven ministers have already demanded renewed deliberations, and they are: Yisrael Katz, Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Uri Orbach, Uzi Landau, Sofa Landver and Yair Shamir. We ask you to intervene and request that the prime minister hold renewed discussions on the matter of freeing murderers."
The groups were also planning a demonstration near the Ofer prison just outside of Ramallah, calling on the government to "stop the release of terrorists."
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon -- a vociferous opponent to any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority at the present time -- wrote a letter to several ministers on Thursday asking for opposition to the plan.
"I am calling on you to oppose the irresponsible release of terrorists, which jeopardizes the security of Israelis. Releasing terrorists without conditions constitutes a prize for terrorism and encourages future terrorists," the letter read.