There are an increasing number of media reports of the imminent release of Gilad Shalit as part of a prisoner-for-terrorists exchange deal.
Amid a flurry of media reports that after more than three years of deadlock, Hamas may agree this week to release St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, President Shimon Peres told reporters in Cairo on Sunday that progress had been made toward a prisoner swap.
“There are negotiations between the two sides. I do not think that I need to elaborate. We all know there is progress. I hope that it will lead to a positive conclusion,” Peres said.
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned that the media reports on progress in the talks “could harm the efforts” to release Schalit.
“We have a deep commitment to release Gilad and this is a joint effort by everyone, but it needs to stay behind the scenes,” he said. “This is what will contribute to his returning home quickly.”
Despite his words, the Israeli, international and Arab media churned out headlines throughout the day on an imminent agreement.
Fox News reported that a deal had taken “another important step” forward and that Israel has approved a Hamas list of 70 additional names that met its criteria for release.
Israel originally had reservations about 70 names on a Hamas list of 450 security prisoners it demanded in exchange for Schalit, 22, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006.
According to Al-Arabiya satellite news, senior Hamas officials will arrive in Cairo on Monday for talks with Egyptian officials and Gaza-based Hamas officials.
Usama Mazeini, a Hamas official involved in the German-brokered negotiations over Schalit, told Hamas newsletter Al-Risala on Saturday that the remaining “obstacles” are closed to being resolved.
He gave no further details, but the publication quoted anonymous Hamas officials as saying a deal is “reaching completion.”
Germany’s new Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle arrives in Israel on Monday for a pre-arranged visit.
Some reports have speculated that a deal, or at least its first stage, will be carried out by Friday in conjunction with the Id al-Adha Muslim holiday.
Schalit’s father, Noam, is set to speak on Monday with Israeli mediator Hagai Elias, at a meeting that was previously scheduled. Afterwards he is expected to head to the Knesset to lobby parliamentarians on his son’s behalf.
He told the media on Sunday that he had received no officials reports of any progress.
“At this moment, there is nothing new,” he said.
The deal would need to be approved by the cabinet and would be brought for a vote before its implementation, possibly as early as this week.
On Sunday, Al-Arabiya reported that Israel could release as many as 1,000 security prisoners in exchange for Schalit.
The Dubai-based broadcaster said that if the deal goes through, Schalit would return to Israel via Egypt.
The report said that the list of prisoners included Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, as well as other prisoners with “blood on their hands,” who had been involved in terrorist attacks that killed Israelis.
Hamas’s announcement on Saturday that it was reining in all of the Gazan factions to prevent rocket fire is viewed as a step toward an agreement, since Hamas understands that a rocket attack with casualties could set back a deal indefinitely.
Meanwhile, three bereaved fathers who lost their children in a terror attack on a bus in Haifa are protesting “the serious censorship on any detail regarding the deal for the release of terrorists.”
According to the fathers, “The lack of knowledge and the lack of time due to the censorship are causing us great suffering and a feeling of contempt towards the moves taken and the punishments imposed by the legal system on the murderers of our children and the collaborators responsible for our children’s murder.”
The three parents are threatening to turn to the court “in order to receive reliable information, in real time, about the impending deal, including a list of the prisoners slated to be released from Israeli jails.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
10:05PM: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has indicated that no Shalit-for-terrorists deal has been struck yet.
8:32PM: I guess they won’t be exchanging Chanukah gifts.
5:38PM: There are reports that arch Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti may be released in an upcoming Shalit-for-terrorists exchange, as well as PFLP terrorist Ahmed Sadat.
If Barghouti is released, I predict he will be elected as the new PA President, to replace Mahmoud Abbas.
5:15PM: Ahmad Aweidah, head of the Palestine Securities Exchange, is advocating a one-state solution in which palestinians are the majority and the Jews are a “protected minority.”
Asked of Israelis who would resist his vision out of fear for the end of the Jewish state, he said: “But it would be the birth of the Jewish canton. Don’t worry, we will be good to them. They will be treated as a protected minority. We are not interested in oppressing them. Historically, we don’t have a problem with Jews. Anti-semitism is not an Arab or Muslim thing, it’s primarily been a Christian thing.”
Sounds good to me. Sign me up!
4:55PM: Ma’an news reports:
The head of the Muslim-Christian Commission, an interfaith Palestinian organization, expressed regret on Saturday that the Arab and Muslim world was more focused on soccer than protecting Jerusalem.
Speaking at the commission’s new headquarters in Jerusalem, Secretary-General Hasan Khater said he was disappointed by the enthusiasm soccer players demonstrated last week in Sudan compared to their support for holy sites in Jerusalem.
“I thought the Arab and Muslim countries were in a coma, unable to get excited about anything, but the match between Egypt and Algeria proved there is incredible potential… unfortunately it’s being used for everything but furthering the nation’s interests and real concerns,” he said.
He asked how soccer fans could become so “hysterically excited” over a match, but not when “Israeli soldiers hunt down and arrest Palestinian worshipers in Al-Aqsa’s courtyards … Has the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem become less relevant than football?”
Or perhaps this is indicative of what Jerusalem really means to the average Arab and Muslim.
1:18PM: Alan Dershowitz has ripped Richard Goldstone a new one, for the latter’s refusal to debate him.
Jewish-American legalist, Prof. Alan Dershowitz accused Judge Richard Goldstone, the author of the UN report investigating Operation Cast Lead, of dodging an intellectual confrontation with him and of choosing to speak with relatively less incisive interviewers in order to spread lies against the Israeli government.
In a conversation with Ynet, Dershowitz claimed that Goldstone preferred to give interviews to public television over debating him. Dershowitz said that it isn’t appropriate for Goldstone to filter whom he debates, saying that he chose to speak with Bill Moyers and People magazine, but refused to sit at the same table as him.
Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor who gained fame through a number of highly publicized court cases, including that of OJ Simpson, invited Goldstone to a debate on the home turf of the report’s author in front of his students at Fordham University, where he is a visiting lecturer. Goldstone turned down the invite.
Dershowitz said that he tried to confront Goldstone, but that Goldstone clearly showed that he is uninterested in debating people who have access to information and have read his report meticulously and with a critical eye. Dershowitz, not hiding his dismay with Goldstone, said that the judge used very poor judgment, and noted that judges are not above the law or morality, and nor are they above criticism or debate.
Dershowitz demanded that Goldstone provide explanations of the sources that led him to his final conclusion in the report, which asserted that Israel’s policy in Operation Cast Lead was to kill as many Palestinian civilians as possible.
Dershowitz said that this is an utter lie and that Goldstone must be ashamed for coming to such a conclusion, saying that while Goldstone now denies such allegations in interviews, this indeed is the bottom line of the report written plainly in black and white.
The world-renowned legalist expressed his dismay for the wave of court cases issued against senior Israeli military and political officials in Europe on the backdrop of the Gaza offensive.
According to him, it is absurd that some like Ehud Barak, who, in his words, tried to bring peace and give the Palestinians a state, is currently under threat of being arrested in London while Hamas’ Khaled Mashaal can roam the city’s streets free of concern. He said that something is deeply wrong with international law and order when such is the case.
However, Dershowitz said that he does not expect Israel to suffer much damage in the US following the report. He asserted that the Americans understand that the Human Rights Council is a farce and its conclusions not taken too seriously. Dershowitz claimed that Israel can breath easily in academic circles as well, saying that students in the US can think for themselves and will not believe that Israel decided intentionally to kill Palestinian civilians.
About two months ago, Dershowitz contacted Barak in a bid to help Israel quash the Goldstone Report, continue fighting terrorist organizations, and protect IDF officers in the legal arena. The Barak’s office reported that Dershowitz provided the names of four American international lawyers to join the legal forum Barak is forming for just this purpose.
10:15AM: Meet the IAF’s most female battalion.
6:08AM: Tongue-twister of the day: Syrian soap superstars
Syrian soap superstars enter Gaza
Syrian soap opera superstars were among a delegation of actors that entered the Gaza Strip on Sunday on a solidarity visit to the besieged enclave.
Meanwhile, I feel a Separated at Birth coming on.
5:55AM: Tawfiq Al-Tirawi, Security Chief for our “peace partners” the PA, claims Israel recruits palestinians to sexually harass their sisters and mothers.
I assume that is when these palestinian men are not murdering their sisters and mothers in “honor killings.”