Deal On Gilad Shalit May Be Imminent
Posted by Michael F.Blackburn Sr. on November 28, 2009
Originally Published on Haaretz
The American television network Fox News reported on Friday that the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit was close to completion, and that it will likely be carried out this week.
The German weekly Der Spiegel meanwhile reported that the deal’s completion is delayed due to a disagreement within Hamas.
Voice of Palestine radio, for its part, quoted Egyptian sources yesterday as saying that in an unusual move, security around the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been beefed up, speculating that the move could signal the imminent exchange.
According to the report by Fox, Egyptian sources said that Hamas has yet to respond to Israel’s latest objections to its demands for Shalit’s release, but that the latest developments indicate that the differences between the two sides have significantly narrowed.
Israeli officials said Friday that talks aimed at advancing the deal would resume tomorrow, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns from his trip to Germany and the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha concludes.
Fox quoted sources “close to the negotiations” who added that Netanyahu “seems more willing to push a deal forward.”
Khaled Meshal, the Damascus-based Hamas political chief, has reservations about the current terms of the deal, according to Der Spiegel. By contrast, senior Hamas officials in Gaza are interested in carrying out the deal as soon as possible.
The Arabic news station Al Arabiya reported last week that a Palestinian delegation involved in the negotiations in Cairo to free Shalit arrived in Damascus to discuss finalizing the deal with Meshal.
According to reports from last week about a snag in the talks for Shalit’s release, the gap between Hamas and Israel is over between 70 and 100 names of Palestinian prisoners which Israel is not willing to release – including Fatah’s West Bank secretary general, Marwan Barghouti.
A few days earlier, Israel and Hamas came closer to a prisoner deal when officials said Israel had dropped objections to releasing 160 prisoners. According to Der Spiegel, the deal will secure the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in total, 450 in the first phase and the remaining 550 later.
Hamas deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said before the weekend there has been progress on a prisoner swap, but gave no further details in a phone interview with AFP from Damascus.
The parents of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted more than three years ago by Hamas, are scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman today, in the framework of a round of talks they have been holding with cabinet minister since last week. The parents are not scheduled to meet with Netanyahu.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who in the past has supported releasing Barghouti, told Channel 10 yesterday that he was “optimistic” about the deal for Shalit’s release.
(Jack Khoury contributed to this article.)