Prisoner swap deal now favoured by majority in Israeli cabinet
THERE IS a clear majority in the Israeli cabinet for approving a prisoner deal with Hamas, although there is opposition within the intelligence services.
The current deal being discussed between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian and German intermediaries is essentially similar to the one turned down by the Olmert government six months ago. Hamas has presented Israel with a list of 450 prisoners to be released in a direct exchange for Shalit. As a second stage, Israel will release hundreds more at an unspecified date.
While agreeing the number and to the release of prisoners who are convicted of murder, the main Israeli objection was to the release of Palestinians seen as “assets to the terror organisations”.
Israel also has reservations about releasing prisoners who are linked to multiple murders, such as Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and secretary general of the PFLP, Ahmed Saadat. It also objects to releasing prisoners who are Israeli citizens or residents of East Jerusalem.
Israel is demanding that some of the released prisoners be deported to other countries and not be allowed to return to the PA.
Originally, Israel objected to 125 of the 450 names on the Hamas list. That number is understood to be lower now, but the heads of the Mossad and the Shabak internal security service still believe the deal should not be authorised.
On the other hand, both Defence Minister Ehud Barak and IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi are broadly in favour, as are PM Binyamin Netanyahu and a majority of his cabinet.