Ilan Grapel, an American-Israeli citizen jailed in Cairo on suspicions of espionage, landed in Israel Thursday after 25 Egyptian prisoners in Israeli jails were released to Egypt in return.
A private jet brought Grapel, who had been jailed since June, to Israel on Thursday night; he was accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's personal envoy Isaac Molho and MK Israel Hasson (Kadima), both of whom brokered Grapel's release.
On Thursday, the Taba crossing with Egypt was closed from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. to allow the transfer of the freed Egyptian prisoners into Egypt.
Grapel's mother Irene met her son when he got off the plane; she was accompanied by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman, for whom Grapel had worked.
Grapel met with Netanyahu last night. He thanked the prime minister for his efforts to release him and told him he had difficult days in prison, even though he had received fair treatment.
Netanyahu thanked the Egyptian and U.S. governments for their efforts in securing the young man's release.
According to Hasson, Grapel told him he had come to Cairo and had gone to the demonstrations during the revolution earlier this year "out of curiosity and never imagined he would find himself under arrest."
Hasson said that during talks for Grapel's release the matter was raised of the release of the Israeli Odeh Tarabin, who has been in jail in Egypt for 11 years. "The Tarabin matter was on the table," Hasson said. "It is still on the table and I hope it ends well. The less we talk the better."
A friend of Grapel in Israel, Ronen Shnidman said: I thought it would take 15 days for him to get out of jail, not four months." Shnidman called the Egyptian claim that Grapel was a Mossad agent "foolishness."
Grapel will land in New York on Friday, said Tziki Oud. Oud, who does volunteer work for Israel's so-called lone soldiers, knows Grapel from the Israeli-American's army days.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the U.S. State Department denied reports that it had pledged to sell Egypt F-16 planes in return for Grapel's release.
"The United States welcomes the release of Ilan Grapel, who we have worked hard to bring home since his June detention in Egypt," State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "We thank the Governments of Egypt and Israel for their roles in reuniting him with his family. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is a vital element of regional peace and stability, and we strongly support both countries' sustained commitment to its provisions."
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