Shalit case drags on
Photo: Gil Yohanan

'Shalit breakthrough not in cards'

Israel's decision to tie opening of crossings to Gilad Shalit's release complicates matters, sources closely familiar with negotiations say; senior Israeli defense official says cabinet decision not backed up by any tangible steps

Israel's decision to insist on the release of Gilad Shalit before reopening the Gaza crossings only serves to complicate the issue, Palestinian and other sources closely familiar with the negotiations on the matter told Ynet Wednesday.


One source added that no breakthrough in the case is expected anytime soon.


For the time being, officials in Cairo have maintained their silence on the matter, while some Israeli security officials criticized the cabinet's move. Senior Israeli defense officials warned that the pressure exerted by Israel via the cabinet decision may stop the entire Egyptian-Hamas process of securing understandings. Egyptian disappointment with Israel's steps could undermine Cairo's struggle against smuggling to Gaza, and also further delay a Shalit deal, the officials said


"It is possible that pressure should have been exerted on Hamas via the cabinet," a senior security official said. "However, our declarative decision, which is not backed by tangible steps for paying the price for Shalit, in fact hurts Egypt. We have not undertaken any meaningful step, such as advancing the internal discussion regarding the number and identity of Palestinian terrorists we're willing to release.


'Gaps still wide'

According to sources closely familiar with the Shalit negotiations, despite the cabinet's decision Wednesday Israel is still not ready to resolve the Shalit affair.


"Israel handed over its last list (of prisoners) about two months ago. This list includes fewer than 200 names, while Hamas' list includes 450 heavyweight prisoners," one source said. "This means the gaps are still wide, and therefore we are not expected to see a breakthrough on the Shalit issue in the near future."


The sources added that a lull in Gaza, in the form of a ceasefire, is in fact in place already. Therefore, Israel's cabinet decision merely serves to harden Hamas' positions, especially vis-à-vis Egypt, the sources said. One source added that Israel's decision mostly undermines the trust between Israel and Cairo, thereby making it difficult for Egypt to soften Hamas' positions.


"Even though it appears that the decision eliminates the possibility of resolving the Shalit issue during the current Israeli government's term in office, contacts are ongoing in an effort to revert to the previous format," one source said, "that is, first agreeing on a lull and later dealing with the Shalit issue, or dealing with the lull and Shalit simultaneously."


Roni Sofer contributed to the story


פרסום ראשון: 02.18.09, 23:59
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