Liber­man: No Break­through in Pris­oner Talks

The Jewish Voice - - ISRAEL - By: Ilan Evy­atar

De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Liber­man said Sun­day there is no sub­stance to re­ports that Is­rael and Ha­mas were close to a pre­lim­i­nary deal on the way to a pris­oner ex­change.

“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,” Liber­man told the Galei Yis­rael 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 of Ha­mas,” Liber­man added.

Liber­man’s com­ments fol­lowed re­ports in the Le­banese daily Al-Akhbar claim­ing that the first stage of a deal would be con­cluded within the next three months.

Ac­cord­ing to Al-Akhbar, which is known for its ties to the Le­banese Shi’ite ter­ror group Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas would send a video with in­for­ma­tion about the fate of missing sol­diers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – both of whom are be­lieved to have been killed in ac­tion dur­ing the 2014 Gaza War – and three Is­raeli cit­i­zens, be­lieved to be in the group’s cap­tiv­ity af­ter cross­ing into the Strip of their own ac­cord – Abera Mengistu, Ju­maa Abu Ghan­ima and Hisham al-Sayed. Is­rael, ac­cord­ing to Al-Akhbar, would have to “pay” for the in­for­ma­tion with the re­lease of 25 fe­male Pales­tinian pris­on­ers.

A sec­ond stage of the deal, would, ac­cord­ing to Al-Akhbar, lead to the re­lease of 53 pris­on­ers orig­i­nally re­leased in the 2011 pris­oner swap for Gi­lad Shalit and then re­ar­rested for vi­o­lat­ing the terms of their re­lease. Ha­mas is also de­mand­ing the re­lease of Ahmed Sa’adat, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Pop­u­lar Front for the Lib­er­a­tion of Pales­tine, who is serv­ing a 30-year sen­tence for his part in the killing of tourism min­is­ter Re­havam Ze’evi in 2001, and of Fatah’s Mar­wan Bargh­outi who is serv­ing five life sen­tences for his role in a se­ries of killings in the Sec­ond In­tifada.

Ger­shon Baskin, a peace ac­tivist who was in­volved in ne­go­ti­a­tions prior to the Shalit swap, said on Face­book “to the best of my knowl­edge there is no new Ha­mas deal in sight, not even close.”

Re­gard­less of the ve­rac­ity of the re­port, gov­ern­ment min­is­ters spoke out Sun­day morn­ing against a deal that would see the re­lease of pris­on­ers.

“You can­not re­lease live ter­ror­ists for the bod­ies of our sol­diers,” said Jew­ish Home leader and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett. “We must in­crease the pres­sure and hurt Ha­mas so hold­ing the bod­ies is no longer worth it. Kid­nap­ping must be made a bur­den not an as­set.”

Tzachi Hanegbi, Min­is­ter in charge of Na­tional Se­cu­rity and

For­eign Af­fairs, added “ter­ror­ists should not be be re­leased, not for in­for­ma­tion, not for bod­ies and not for in­fil­tra­tors who went into Gaza at their own vo­li­tion. The Is­raeli in­ter­est is to pres­sure Ha­mas pris­on­ers so that they lever­age their lead­er­ship to re­turn what they are re­quired to re­turn ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions. We need to ap­ply pres­sure, not to be pres­sured.”

De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Liber­man said Sun­day there is no sub­stance to re­ports that Is­rael and Ha­mas were close to a pre­lim­i­nary deal on the way to a pris­oner ex­change. Photo Credit: Hil­lel Maeir/TPS

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