Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Negotiators return from Cairo without Schalit deal

From THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 17, 2009 by KHALED ABU TOAMEH and TOVAH LAZAROFF:

Hopes for a breakthrough that would lead to the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit were dashed Monday night when the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying that Hamas had hardened its position.

The statement was issued upon the return of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin and senior negotiator Ofer Dekel from Cairo Monday night after two days of marathon Egyptian-mediated talks toward concluding a prisoner swap.

Hamas has hardened its position, gone back on understandings that had been reached in the past year and raised extreme demands in spite of the attempts to advance the negotiations, the Prime Minister's Office said. It added that Hamas had taken this position despite generous offers that were raised in the latest round of talks.

...An official from Olmert's office ...called Gilad's father Noam to tell him that efforts to finalize a deal had failed.

On Tuesday, a government official is expected to update the Schalit family on the negotiations. Then, at 2 p.m. Olmert is due to convene a special cabinet session to give a full report to the 25 cabinet members.

...Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has been silent with respect to his views on the issue and is not expected to express an opinion until the end of the week.

...not everyone agreed that freeing prisoners guilty of serious crimes was the way to go.

Among those calling on the government not to release terrorists with blood on their hands was MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union).

"Anyone who is ready to say that he demands the release of Gilad Schalit at any price is irresponsible," said Eldad, who warned that the 450 terrorists would turn around and kill thousands of Israelis.

"Are we ready to pay with the blood of our children?" he asked.

...Across the street from the {Shalit protest] tent, Almagor, the terror victim association that has opposed the move, continued its mostly solitary vigil to protest the deal.

It has said that 180 Israelis have already been killed by terrorists released in past deals. If there is a deal, it said, it is considering a petition to the High Court of Justice to block the cabinet from voting on the swap.

Among the few who stood in Almagor's tent on Monday was Swery Zion, who lost his son Doron, 21, and his daughter Sharon , 24, in a terror attack in 2001. Sharon's husband Yaniv, 25, was also killed in that attack.

"I felt that I had to come to scream against this deal," Zion said.

The issue here is not revenge, he said. Nor did he oppose the release of Gilad by other means. "I just want to prevent another disaster."
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