Ashkenazi at the Knesset
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Ashkenazi: I am allowed to express my opinion

IDF chief of staff tells Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee he opposes release of prisoners from Gaza 'as long as Gilad Shalit is still there'; says does not believe peace summit will lead to third intifada. Meanwhile Hamas warns of 'unusual failure' in Annapolis

It is unthinkable that the army chief would not express his opinion, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday, addressing the release of Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.


On Monday, Ashkenazi expressed his objection to the release of 16 prisoners slated to return to the Gaza Strip, out of the 441 prisoners whose release was approved by the government.


Speaking at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, the IDF chief said, "I am not against the release of prisoners. I am against freeing prisoners to Gaza as long as (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit is still there."


Ashkenazi expressed the defense establishment's fear that terror organizations will attempt to thwart the upcoming US-hosted Mideast peace conference before it even begins.


He told the committee that the army was preparing for a possibility of terror organizations attempting to carry out attacks in a bid to foil the conference.


Ashkenazi estimated that the murder of Ido Zoldan near the settlement of Kedumim on Monday night was carried out by former Fatah terrorists. He stressed, however, that the incident was not linked to the thwarted infiltration attempt from the Gaza Strip in the community of Netiv Ha'asara.


The chief of staff believes that "the Palestinians are becoming sober, compared to last month, when they thought that the core issues would be discussed." According to Ashkenazi, the Palestinians "understand that Annapolis may only be a ceremonial event, but that the talks will begin later.


"I don’t believe that another intifada will break out. The atmosphere in the Palestinian street these days is to deal with the daily troubles."


According to Ashkenazi, the IDF has removed 24 roadblocks in the West Bank.


Meanwhile, Hamas warned of "an unusual failure" at the Annapolis conference.


Talking to the New York Times, former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar warned that "without uniting between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) cannot represent the Palestinian side in the talks."


פרסום ראשון: 11.20.07, 13:04
 new comment
This will delete your current comment