Israeli ministers on Wednesday insisted that Israel
did not fail in the efforts to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
"We weren't the ones who missed," Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet director, told Ynet. "The price was eventually set on the prisoners Israel was willing to release and on their quality, if one can talk about quality, as they are the lowest scum of terrorists.
"I don't know what it means expressing remorse on the Gilad Shalit affair, so I'm not expressing remorse and I think we must continue the efforts and bring Gilad home," said Dichter.
A day after the special cabinet meeting
in which the ministers were briefed by Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin and the prime minister's delegate to Cairo Ofer Dekel, Minister Dichter said, "It's clear to me that Operation Cast Lead
was a lever we should have made more use of in order to return Gilad Shalit home.
"Although Gilad was not one of the operation's targets, his release was its by-product. It should have been a much more serious lever to speed up the negotiations for Shalit's return. It should have been utilized in a better way and we didn't take advantage of it enough. Now we will need other levers.
"The crossings were one lever in a series of levers, which we who are in this business know how to operate. I don’t want to say anything about targeted killings or any other method. These are professional issues."
He accused Hamas
of the fact that Shalit has been in captivity for almost three years.
"We must understand that in any negotiations with Hamas and the other terror organizations, their motivation to release their prisoners is in abyss, while our motivation to lead to the release of only one soldier is in the sky. These are differences we find difficult to comprehend as Israelis.
"The problem was that on the timeline, as presented yesterday at the cabinet meeting, on Hamas' side we had functionaries who did not have the authority to decide, and only in the past 10 years a situation was created in which those who make the decisions were in Cairo and progress was made.
"Therefore, any missed opportunity is derived from the situation created by Hamas and not from Israel's conduct. Therefore I suggest that we don't express remorse because we didn't miss out on anything and we tried to take advantage of every opportunity in order to bring Gilad home. The effort must continue."
Dichter went on to address the red lines set by the prime minister in the negotiations: "Israel has 8,500 terrorists in its prisons, 2,500 of them Hamas members. It's unlikely that we would receive of list of 450 and that if we won't be able to accept their list it would be deemed a failure. It's not a binary equation. You either agree or don't agree….
"The State of Israel has its own rules, but the negotiations will not be held here and therefore Israel must not feel like it missed out on something," he concluded.
Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On told Ynet that the efforts to release Shalit continue. "The Israeli ethos has not been damaged, and we learned this in the briefing we received at the cabinet meeting from the officials in charge of the negotiations, Ofer Dekel and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin."
The cabinet on Tuesday held a special three-hour meeting on the deadlock in the negotiations aimed at security the kidnapped soldier's release.
"The prime minister did everything in order to bring Gilad home," said Minister Bar-On. "We received a comprehensive review of every moment since the minute he was kidnapped… I know he made huge effort to bring Gilad back.
"The fact that Israel agreed at first to release 80 Hamas terrorists and now it agrees on 325, over four times more, shows that the prime minister went a long way – also in terms of his personal values."
As for the prisoners Israel agreed to release, the minister said, "These are arch-murderers, people who are animals, and this prime minister and the current Israeli government were willing to release them in return for Gilad Shalit.
"So is this failure? What kind of measure is this? Should we give them everything they demand? We drew red lines."
Bar-On went on to accuse Hamas for the failure of the negotiations: "A government must do everything in order to bring Gilad Shalit home, but a situation in which a country has no red lines is impossible. The problem is not with us, it's with Hamas which raised the price."
The minister also referred to his fellow government members, who visited the Shalit family's protest tent in Jerusalem.
"In regards to this matter, the Mossad deputy chief, the Shin Bet director, the Military Intelligence chief and Ofer Dekel said that the presence of public figures and ministers was what raised the price demanded by Hamas.
"I'm not only talking about (Defense Minister) Ehud Barak. There were other people as well. Was (Transportation Minister Shaul) Mofaz there? Wasn't (Shas Chairman Eli) Yishai there? Wasn't (Social Affairs Minister Isaac) Herzog there? It's not that they weren't critical of it. They were asked by us and they explained that this was what had changed the picture."
Addressing Hamas' attitude towards the talks, Bar-On said, "We are negotiating with cynical animals, who have little regard for us, little regard for Gilad Shalit and his family and little regard for their prisoners as well. We can't accept all of their demands.
"What is the measure of success? Giving all you are demanded to give? I view that as a measure of failure. What kind of speculation is that? We gave 325 terrorists of the worst kind, and its not over as far as they are concerned.
"We didn’t say this is the final number. We said add 125 others in order to complete the list to 450 from another list. They didn’t want to. A country must have red lines."
Bar-On said that he supports the Shalit family and has no criticism against it or the citizens who backed the public campaign for Gilad's release.
"We can't say that there is no fraction line in the negotiations between our final offer and what Hamas is demanding. There is a difference, and I don’t believe it will be bridged in the three working days this government has left.
"The next government will have to continue, and the State of Israel will reach the point in which it can return the boy, but not at any cost. A state must safeguard its citizens' security when it considers releasing murderous terrorists. I understand the noble Shalit family, which is deriving of every word of praise, but at the end of the day, a state must maintain its principles."
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped
into the Gaza Strip 997 days ago.