The first group of 26 prisoners was released in August, triggering an emotional outpouring among the families of those they had killed.
The Palestinians slated to be freed this week have spent between 19 years and 28 years incarcerated in Israeli jails. The majority are from the West Bank. Five are from the Gaza Strip, now governed by the Islamist group Hamas, which does not recognize Israel.
Among the prisons who will be freed is Omar Issa Masoud, convicted of murdering Ian Feinberg, a lawyer who had been working in Gaza to help improve the economic conditions of Palestinians. Feinberg, 30, was slain in April 1993, when gunmen stormed an aid meeting in Gaza City he was attending.
Another prisoner known to many Israelis is Hazem Kassem Shbair, convicted of murdering Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg at a construction site where the two worked together. The Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel said that most of Rotenberg's family had been killed during World War II but that he managed to escape, arriving in Israel in 1947. Rotenberg was bludgeoned to death with an ax at the construction site where he worked in 1994, when he was 67 years old.
Parliament member David Tsur of the left-leaning Hatnua party told ynetnews.com that he considered releasing such prisoners "improper conduct" and would have preferred that the government instead offer the Palestinians the carrot of halting settlement construction in the West Bank. "Releasing terrorists is irreversible," Tsur said.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party and the third-most-powerful member of Netanyahu's government, tried to stop the prisoner release, saying it was "a dubious privilege" to have Israeli negotiators sit with their Palestinian counterparts.
But Netanyahu said the government must abide by its commitments. "The decision to free prisoners is one of the most difficult I made as prime minister," Netanyahu said, according to accounts in the Israeli media. "This decision was necessary in our current reality. We have to navigate through a complex international arena full of challenges."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to welcome the freed prisoners in a celebration in downtown Ramallah late Tuesday, officials said.
Critics of the release were given fresh ammunition after two missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel early Monday. No one claimed responsibility, and no one was injured. One missile was intercepted by Israel's U.S.-funded Iron Dome missile defense system above the coastal city of Ashkelon. The other rocket landed in an uninhabited patch of ground nearby.