Is the US trying to prevent the release of two senior prisoners whose freedom Hamas is demanding in return for Shalit? Palestinian sources have told the London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper that the United States has pressured Israel
not to release Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmed Saadat and former Fatah
leader in the West Bank Marwan Barghouti.
There was also pressure not to release prisoners from east Jerusalem and Arab citizens of Israel, the report said.
The sources told the newspaper that Israel has gone back on
agreements reached earlier regarding the deal aimed at securing the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit
They said that in its last offer, relayed to Hamas
leaders via the German mediator, Israel refused to release 22 Palestinian prisoners: Fifteen from the West Bank ,including Saadat and Barghouti, and seven from the Gaza Strip.
The newspaper also reported that Israel was adamantly refusing to release these prisoners, whose identity has not been published, in addition to 44 others from east Jerusalem and 22 Arab citizens of the State who were arrested before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
The same sources noted that Hamas rejected the last offer in which Israel went back on previous agreements, but is not ruling out further negotiations.
The sources asserted that Israel's backtracking is linked to pressure applied by the US and western states to the Israeli government, insisting that Israel refrains from making concessions to Hamas which will increase the movement's popularity.
They also expressed their belief that Israel will agree to release Saadat and Barghouti after a deal has been reached, but only as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
in order to strengthen his standing among Palestinians.
Releasing them in the framework of the Shalit deal would only reduce Abbas' popularity, they said, while increasing that of Hamas – something that the US and other western states wish to avoid.