Barghouti. It all depends on him
Shalit: 1,256 days in captivity
Will Israel free Marwan Barghouti but keep him away from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ? London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper on Wednesday quoted sources involved in the negotiations for a prisoner exchange deal as saying that Israel was willing to discuss the release – and deportation – of the former Tanzim secretary-general in the West Bank.
According to the sources, the talks on Barghouti are still going on, but if Israel insists on deporting him from the West Bank, it will be entirely up to him.
The senior Fatah member is considered very powerful in the Palestinian street, and his name has been mentioned as one of the candidates to replace President Abbas. Several Israeli officials have also for his release, regardless of the swap deal.
The name of the former Tanzim leader, who is serving four life sentences in Israel for his involvement in deadly terror attacks, has been mentioned more than once as a main bone of contentions in the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas.
Barghouti's brother said last week that the family had received information that he would be released, but Vice Premier Silvan Shalom insisted in an interview with the BBC on the same day that Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, would not be released.
Al-Hayat also quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the German mediator had delivered an offer to Hamas last week with "new principles", which would be "more convenient" to the movement than the ones presented in the previous round of talks five months ago.
The "new offer" includes a reduction in the number of prisoners slated to be deported from the West Bank, an Israeli acceptance of the principle of releasing east Jerusalem residents, an agreement to release prisoners from Hamas' "ground ranks" in accordance with the list submitted, and senior prisoners like Barghouti, Saadat, and members of Hamas' military wing, including Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, Hassan Salameh, and others.
According to the report, which matches information reported by the al-Arabiya network two days ago, the mediator is expected to meet with Hamas members in the Gaza Strip in order to listen to the movement's stand in regards to the proposal package following consultations within Hamas.
Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar also referred to the swap deal on Wednesday, saying that Hamas feared Israel would try to kidnap soldier Gilad Shalit while he is being transferred to Egypt, without releasing the prisoners.
According to an Egyptian source, an intelligence and Foreign Ministry delegation from Cairo will be sent to Gaza to receive the Israeli soldier from his captors.
The delegation is then slated to return to Egypt under special security arrangements. The source noted that the place where Shalit would be handed over to the Egyptians had yet to be determined, in light of the fear of a last-moment "Israeli maneuver".
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip 1,256 days ago