The special cabinet session that was scheduled for Monday to vote on a prisoner exchange deal has been postponed. Due to the lack of progress with Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instructed special envoy Ofir Dekel and ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet) Director Yuval Diskin to remain in Cairo and continue intensive talks in the hope of reaching an agreement during the final hours of the current administration.
It appears that Olmert is willing to exhibit a great deal of flexibility towards meeting Hamas’ demands, seeking to bring Shalit home before stepping down from office. The Prime Minister’s Office has stated there is no progress, seeking to remain neutral and not signaling optimism or disappointment.
Hamas however has been releasing messages that Israel has not agreed to release everyone on its list and therefore, there cannot be an agreement. Hamas states it will not settle for partial compliance, insisting all the terrorists on its list are set free in the deal, including Fatah Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa’adat, who played a role in the assassination of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evi.
While Israel has already taken a giant step, indicating it is willing to release Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences, it remains firm regarding Sa’adat, who played a role in the assassination of Rechavam Ze’evi, a retired IDF major-general and cabinet minister who was shot at point-blank range in a Jerusalem hotel.
Olmert has given Diskin authority to make the necessary decisions, hoping the 24-hour extension will permit a deal that will permit the outgoing administration to fulfill its mission, to bring IDF soldier Shalit home to his family.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)