The Shamgar commission, which drafted recommendations for dealing with abductions of Israelis, is expected to update its report to reflect lessons learned from the deal to free Gilad Shalit. According to an anonymous military source the panel will meet in the next two weeks with special envoy David Meidan and other figures involved in reaching the agreement with Hamas, before submitting its report to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Meanwhile, Meidan and his team will continue talks with Egyptian intelligence officials over the second phase of the prisoner exchange, in which Israel will free about 550 Palestinian prisoners of its own choosing, without the need for further negotiations with Hamas. According to a senior diplomatic source, these are security prisoners who were not convicting of killing Israelis and are not serving life terms. The release is expected to take place within two months.
Barak appointed the commission in 2008 to draw up policy guidelines to shape the government's response to any future abductions of Israeli civilians or soldiers by terror organizations, to serve as bargaining chips and to obtain the release of imprisoned terrorists. The panel is headed by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar; former Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron and Prof. Asa Kasher complete the team.
The commission completed its work and submitted preliminary conclusions to Barak more than a year ago. The first part of the report addresses the cabinet's decision-making process in previous abductions, and includes recommendations on the price Israel would agree to pay in future incidents.
A decision was made to refrain from making the full report public until the Shalit deal was effected, so as not to further impede the negotiations with Hamas. At the time Barak did not judge it appropriate to apply the panel's recommendations to Shalit's case.
The commission will meet with Meidan, his predecessor as special envoy to the negotiations for Shalit's release Hagai Hadas, and other figures within and outside the government who were involved in the talks. It will presumably discuss, among other issues, the public campaign for Shalit's release and its effect on the negotiations.
A senior Jerusalem official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said that Barak wants to submit the commission's report to the cabinet as soon as possible, so that the issue can be discussed in an atmosphere that is relatively free of pressures and emotional considerations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also thought to support discussion of the issue in the cabinet.
A number of cabinet ministers, however, believe that any prime minister would be hard-pressed to implement such policy guidelines in the face of public pressure.
Egyptian security sources told the Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm that Israeli and U.S. diplomatic officials met on Tuesday with Ilan Grapel, the Israeli-U.S. citizen held in Egypt on suspicion of espionage, and told him he would be free to leave Egypt within a week.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that Grapel will be released at the Taba-Eilat border crossing, and that Israel will simultaneously free 81 Egyptians in Israeli jails. The Egyptian paper added that it was not known whether Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin who has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2000 on charges of spying for Israel, will be freed along with Grapel.
Grapel has been held in Egypt since June 12. He was initially charged with espionage, but the charges were later reduced to incitement, insurrection and damaging a public building during the uprising in Egypt earlier this year.
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