ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet) Director Yuval Diskin and special envoy Ofir Dekel returned from 48 hours of intensive talks in Cairo with Hamas leaders empty handed. After almost 1,000 days in captivity, as the Olmert administration prepares to step down, it is now clear that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will not return home but will remain a hostage of Hamas for the time being.
According to Diskin and Dekel, Hamas negotiators reneged on previous areas of agreement, adopting a hard-line stand, demanding the release of all of the 450 terrorists on their list. The talks were headed by Hamas ‘chief of staff’, Ahmed Jabri, who was unwilling to exhibit any flexibility.
According to the daily Yediot Achronot, quoting an unnamed “senior source very close to the talks,” the public outcry, Shalit tent and especially visits to the tent by ministers, particularly Defense Minister Ehud Barak, prompted Hamas to take a hardened position.
Hamas rejected Israeli demands that many of the murderers being released be exiled to Gaza and some to neighboring Arab nations to prevent their return to areas in Yehuda and Shomron.
Olmert exhibited a large measure of flexibility and authorized his two envoys to make major decisions, giving them the latitude to cut a deal, but it was all for naught. Israel in the early stages of prisoner release talks was willing to release 80 terrorists but at the end, Jerusalem was willing to release over 300 of the murderers on the Hamas list but this was simply not enough.
According to a Haaretz report, quoting a senior Egyptian official, Israeli claims that Hamas hardened its position and added new demands are baseless, stating Hamas is willing to have five of the released terrorists banished to Gaza, not the dozens demanded by Israel. The Egyptian source stated the gap that existed was nothing new, and from the onset, it was hard to believe that a solution was going to be reached in the intensive negotiations.
The daily Maariv’s report is in sync with Yediot and most versions, stating Olmert authorized Diskin and Dekel to make a generous offer but they explained Hamas was not planning to make a deal, rather Hamas negotiators made sure the talks failed.
Noam Shalit was given the news in the Jerusalem tent, at which time he remained quiet and distanced himself from the area.
The cabinet will convene on Tuesday afternoon at 2:00pm, for an official briefing on the last ditch efforts of the outgoing Olmert administration to bring Shalit home. Officials add that when ministers hear of the terrorists whose names appeared on the list, heads will turn. There will not be a vote to approve a prisoner release deal, but rather, the ministers will receive the details surrounding the efforts to bring Shalit home, the efforts that in the last minutes of the Olmert administration gave the nation a new measure of hope, the hope that Gilad Shalit will not chas v’sholom become the next Ron Arad.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)