With a new Israeli government a mere day away,
a Hamas source
said Monday that the Islamist group "is undeterred by (Prime Minister-designate Benjamin) Netanyahu.
He, as well as (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman and
their other partners, will have to discuss our prisoners list."
Should the negotiations on the prisoners Hamas wants released as part of an exchange deal meant to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit stall,
warned the source, Netanyahu "may find himself with a new, harder to swallow list."
Hamas' first priority is to see its men set free, regardless of who leads the Israeli government, said the source.
"The last few days have proven we
cannot be pressured. The only thing dictating our conduct (in the negotiations) is our prisoners' interests and our commitment to the Palestinian people's desire to see long-time prisoners
As for the allegations that Hamas is using Shalit not as a bargaining chip meant to guarantee a prisoner exchange deal, but rather as political leverage meant to force Israel –
and the world – to recognize Hamas as a movement which must be made part of various dialogues, the source said that "we are familiar with this theory. To anyone who wants to test us we say one thing – comply with our demands and see how this deal comes together in lightning speed.
"We have no interest in dragging this out, but this matter cannot be resolved unless the prisoners we're demanding are released," added the source, saying that Israel's demand to have some of the prisoners deported upon release was unacceptable.
As for Israel's plan to worsen the
conditions under which Hamas prisoners are held, Osama al-Mozainy, considered holder of the Shalit "portfolio" in Hamas, said the notion was "ridiculous": They are being held in bad conditions as it is and any mitigation they got – they got by staging hunger strikes, not by the grace of the Israelis, he said.
"Talking like that wrongs the prisoners by making it seem life they have these comfortable lives when they are, in fact, in distress."
Meanwhile, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Monday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would not be attending the upcoming Arab League meeting in Qatar, due to Doha's attempt to weigh in on the Shalit deal.
According to Egyptian sources, Cairo has reliable information from Palestinian and French sources, suggesting that Qatar offered an unlimited bounty to Shalit's captures in an attempt to convince them to transfer Shalit to its territory, instead of Egypt's,
should a deal be finalized. This move was deemed by Egypt as "an inappropriate infringement" on its role as broker in the negotiations.
Roee Nahmias contributed to this report