Hadas. Met with German mediator
Photo: Moshe Millner, GPO
Hope for Gilad Shalit?
Photo: Noam Rotem
London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been holding back-to-back consultations with ministers and faction heads in the Knesset in preparation for the second stage of a prisoner swap deal to retrieve captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
The paper bases its report on "Palestinian journalist sources", who said that Netanyahu began the round of consultations last Thursday after the return of Hagai Hadas, Israel's chief negotiator on the matter, from Cairo.
The sources hinted that during his visit to Egypt, Hadas met with a German mediator who arrived from Damascus, where he met with Hamas leaders.
The Arab daily says the swap deal includes three steps, the first of which was completed when Israel released 20 female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video of Shalit.
The third step, the sources say, will be toughest to approve as it includes the release of many convicted terrorists. Thus, Netanyahu is interested in dividing the deal into three steps in order to facilitate its approval by the Knesset, they add.
According to the report, Netanyahu has told mediators he was capable of getting the Knesset to approve the deal and that officials in Israel understood the need to pay Hamas' price for the soldier.
The sources explain that Netanyahu feels neither the left nor right-wing parties in his government would be able to handle the public pressure for the approval of a deal that would bring Shalit home.