Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is "likely to be on the list" of Palestinian security prisoners freed by Israel as part of a deal to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said Saturday.
Vilnai made the statement in an interview to Israel Radio, and sources in his office stressed that this was his personal opinion, and that it did not represent the government's stance on the issue.
"Whenever we got our soldiers back, we released prisoners from the other side, terrorists from the other side. This is how it's done and this is what we've been doing since the 60s, when this phenomenon began," he said.
"This will be part of the process of Gilad's release, and my stance on the matter is clear and simple: I'm willing to go a long way to see a soldier like Gilad return home," Vilnai added.
The deputy minister also slammed those who criticized the government's intention to relax the criteria for prisoner release in order to facilitate an exchange deal.
"First of all, look people in the eye and say, 'we’re giving up on Gilad Shalit.' Is anyone willing to say this? I'm not," he stated. "There are unfortunately quite a few murderers on the other side, and the reality is complicated and we need to protect our own people, not just slogans."