Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday was the first senior minister to comment on talks around a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit after the German mediator passed on Israel's response to Hamas.
Israel's response included a list of prisoners it demands be deported to the Gaza or abroad, and not be allowed back into the West Bank upon their release.
"This is sensitive timing, and not a time for words," he said in a meting with high school students in Rishon Lezion. The defense minister reiterated his position that the deal should be completed not at any price, but by all possible and appropriate means.
Israel on Tuesday gave a positive response to the general outline of the deal presented by the German mediator last week but demanded "heavy prisoners" be expelled to Gaza or abroad stemming from a serious concern that they may revive Hamas' terror infrastructure in the West Bank and resume the armed conflict as well as terror attacks against Israeli citizens, settlers and the Palestinian Authority.
Barak claimed that the price continues to rise in prisoner exchange deals: "In the past twenty-something years, the State of Israel has been on a slippery slope of deals, from the Jibril deal to the Tennenbaum deal. Even the return of the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev.
"This is a slippery slope, and there is no choice but to stop it. The Israeli government must change its policies on such deals. However, at the moment there is a given situation that did not begin during the tenure of this government. The path must be changed and another position must be formed, we must ask ourselves whether it is right to release a specific soldier who is there and was kidnapped three years ago and examine his case, or examine the context as a whole."
The defense minister added that if there is a change, it should only be made after the conclusion of the Shalit deal: "I think the right thing to do is to first of all to work to end negotiations on Shalit – not at any price – and then make the right moves and change the path with which Israel deals with kidnappings."
Barak continued to say: "The Israeli government and the defense establishment are working intensively these days on formulating the right way to bring about progress in the matter of Gilad."
"The Israeli government, and we, the chief of staff and I, view returning Gilad as an utmost ethical and command obligation, not at any price, but with any reasonable and possible move."