Lieberman: No deal with Hamas for information on Israelis in Gaza
Ministers Bennett and Hanegbi express opposition to release of living terrorists for bodies of soldiers, asserting pressure on Hamas is the only way to bring Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul home; 'A kidnapping needs to be a burden, not an asset,' Bennett says.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected a report on deal in the making with Hamas to bring home three Israeli citizens and the bodies of two IDF soldiers being held in Gaza.
"There are no contacts with Hamas; there is an ongoing effort to achieve the release of our soldiers and civilians held in captivity by Hamas. There is no breakthrough," Lieberman told an Israeli radio station.
"We do not negotiate with terrorist organizations, there are various parties that are negotiating with them such as Egypt and others, but we have no intention of ever holding direct negotiations with the murderers in Hamas," he added.
The deal is reported to include the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, believed by Israel to have been killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and three living Israelis who had entered Gaza over the past few years: Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ganima.
According to a reporter for the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, the first of a two-part deal will resemble the Israel-Hamas deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, from 2009, in which a video of Shalit was first released by Hamas, in exchange for the release of 25 female Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas is demanding as an initial stage that all Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, who were released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal and then arrested once more by Israel, be freed. Further, the terror group is also demanding that women, teenagers and Palestinian parliamentarians imprisoned in Israel be released as well.
In exchange, Hamas said it would be willing to release information on the fate of Israelis held in Gaza.
Two government ministers has already expressed their opposition to the reported deal.
"We must not release living terrorists for the bodies of our soldiers," Education Minister Naftali Bennett determined. "We must increase the pressure and hurt Hamas so it's not beneficial for it to keep holding the bodies. A kidnapping needs to be a burden, not an asset."
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said of the report, "These are Palestinian reports, so one should assume they might not reflect reality."
He echoed Bennett's assertions, saying "We must not release terrorists—not for information, bodies, or infiltrators who entered Gaza of their own volition."
"The Israeli interest is to put as much pressure on Hamas prisoners in our jails in a way that leverages the (Hamas) leadership's desire to return those who need to be returned according to international treaties. Pressure, rather than be pressed," he added.
A source in the Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the matter, while other inside sources denied the report. According to those inside sources, there has been progress in talks recently, but it was not a significant one and negotiations are still far from a breakthrough. The sources added that a deal would not include the release of prisoners for information only.