Cabinet expected to approve Shalit deal
Hamas delegation slated to meet German mediator in Cairo Tuesday. Should Netanyahu decide in favor of prisoner swap deal, he won't have trouble securing cabinet majority, ministers told Ynet. 'I don't know if there will be results to German mediation,' foreign minister said Monday following lowering of expectations by PM
With expectations high towards a deal which would secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit , the price for such a transaction is all too apparent - letting many murders go free. While Hamas officials are gearing up to meet the German mediator in Cairo, Israeli seniors are already speculating as to the possibility of approving the deal in the government.
It is estimated that should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the matter up for a cabinet vote he would not face objections.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as well as the rest of the Labor ministers, is expected to endorse the deal. Shas ministers are slated to decide on the matter on the day of the vote, after Vice Prime Minister Eli Yishai has consulted the movement's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi has already declared that he would vote in favor of a deal should it surface. "We have not yet been briefed on the details but I have full confidence in the parties involved," Margi told Ynet, and added "When it's time to vote I'll support the deal."
Lieberman and Westerwelle (Photo: Yossi Zamir)
Foreign Minister Avigdot Lieberman is expected to give Yisrael Beiteinu ministers the freedom to vote as they choose. Lieberman met with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle on Monday and thanked him for the German mediator's efforts in negotiations for the deal.
"I don't know if there will be results, but it is evident that he is completely professional," Lieberman said of Westerwelle.
Despite the high hopes, Monday also saw the prime minister trying to lower expectations for the long awaited transaction in the face of numerous alerting reports in the foreign press.
"I cannot say yet whether a deal will in fact be struck. It is not only up to us. There is hesitancy on the part of the other side as well," he said and added that the matter would be brought for a public debate as well as for a Knesset discussion subject to cabinet approval.
Netanyahu also spoke of the dilemma Israel is facing. "On the one hand, we want to look after our soldiers and bring them back home - a value that our nation and Jewish tradition hold in the highest regard - but on the other hand we want to avoid future kidnappings."
The Prime Minister's Office announced Monday that some of the recent reports regarding a prisoner exchange deal "are not credible and some of them are even intentionally distorted."
Despite an expected cabinet endorsement, the Shalit family continued efforts Monday to press the government before a final decision is made. Aviva and Noam Shalit met with Hagai Hadas, the main negotiator in the talks. "When we see Gilad here I will say whether the meetings were successful," Noam Shalit said after the meeting.
Also Monday, a delegation from Hamas, which controls Gaza, crossed into Egypt for a meeting with Egyptian security officials in Cairo to discuss the deal that Egypt and Germany have been mediating.
According to a member of the delegation, which was headed by Mahmoud al-Zahar and consists of senior Hamas figures from Gaza and Damascus, the Islamist group insists that Israel release imprisoned Arab-Israelis and residents of east Jerusalem as part of the deal. Israel has so far refused to include them in any prisoner swap.
However, Hamas does not appear inclined to hinder negotiations on that point, while a creative solution is hoped to be reached by both parties.
Saudi network al-Arabia reported that Hamas officials are expected to meet with the German mediator on Tuesday.