Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will insist that terrorists not return to action in the field as part of the prisoner swap deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
"As of now, there is no deal, and it is not at all clear if there will be a deal. It is clear that if we reach a practical proposal, I will bring it to the cabinet. But we still are not there and I don't know if we will be," Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday.
The PM linked Saturday's killing of three al-Aqsa Brigades gunmen who were behind last week's shooting death of settler Meir Avshalom Hai to the prisoner swap negotiations. According to him, "One of the cell terrorist cell members who were killed had been released from Israeli prison. This is precisely the consideration standing against the Shalit deal.
"The issue of our citizens' security, particularly in the West Bank, is a cardinal consideration in the negotiations for Shalit's release. We want our prisoners returned, but at the same time we must minimize the risk to our citizens," said Netanyahu.
"We will not agree to expose our citizens to terror," he added.
Netanyahu is expected to travel to Egypt on Tuesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on the Mideast peace process. The two leaders are also expected to discuss the Shalit issue, among other things.
"I believe we have an interest in moving the peace process forward in a variety of ways," Netanyahu, announcing the visit, told reporters at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu said he had requested the meeting with Mubarak after talks that Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, held in Israel last week.
"I intend to continue this important dialogue," the Israeli leader said.
The identity of the German official mediating between Israel and Hamas was revealed over the weekend. According to a German newspaper, Ernst Uhrlau, head of the country's foreign intelligence agency, BND, appointed senior Intelligence official Gerhard Conrad to head the mediation efforts.
Conrad previously mediated the deal for the return of the bodies of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser from Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), which was one of the groups involved in Shalit's abduction, said the soldier would remain in captivity until Israel meets all of the Palestinian factions' demands.
Reuters contributed to the report