On Thursday afternoon, the prime minister is scheduled to hold a meeting at his Jerusalem office with members of the Ramon Committee, which will present him with their recommendations for relaxing the criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands".
These recommendations only apply to the Shalit release, and not to the release of prisoners as goodwill gestures to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The committee members – Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Minister Ami Ayalon and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann – have agreed that the criteria should be relaxed for the sake of Shalit's release.
The professional team involved in the ministers' work has already examined the list of prisoners who will be transferred to the relaxed category which may enable their release should a deal be reached with the Egyptians' mediation.
Olmert, Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will review the recommendations and examine the list of names. The prime minister will then decide whether to accept the recommendations.
Should the prime minister decide on relaxing the criteria, the issue will be brought to the ministerial committee for prisoner affairs or to the entire government, which will then approve or reject the recommendations. According to estimates, this will happen if and when Israel gets the green light from the Egyptians that an agreement for Shalit's release has been reached.
Ever since Barak's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the efforts to reach an agreement have been accelerated.
According to previous reports, Hamas demands the release of 450 Palestinian prisoners, headed by former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office have stressed that Barghouti's release was not on the agenda.
However, the discussions at the Prime Minister's Office, the Ramon Committee's recommendations and the prisoners' name review conducted by the Shin Bet, the Military Prosecution and the Justice Ministry indicate that some progress has been made, at least on the Israeli side.