Netanyahu on Reported Majdi Halabi Deal: Israel Will Do Everything to Return Its Soldiers

In interview to Army Radio, Netanyahu says he can’t yet determine if information regarding whereabouts of the remains of a soldier missing since 2005 is 'solid.'

Israel will make every effort to return its captive and missing soldiers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, following reports of an emerging deal geared toward locating the body of missing IDF soldier Majdi Halabi.

On Monday, reports claimed that Israel's Justice Ministry was planning to grant amnesty to two convicted prisoners, and monetary compensation to another, in exchange for information regarding the location of a Halabi's grave.

Benjamin Netanyahu - Amit Shabi - 22.4.2012
Amit Shabi

Halabi, an IDF soldier from the Druze village of Daliat al-Carmel, has been missing since 2005, when he disappeared while attempting to hitchhike to his base.

However, it is not clear whether the information promised by the prisoners is reliable or if the body in question is that of Halabi.

Speaking of the reported deal on Tuesday, Netanyahu told Army Radio that he "spares no effort to try and return our captives and missing [soldiers]."

"I wouldn’t say at any price, but if this missing [soldier's] location can be found through these means, then yes, I'll do it," the premier said of the possibility of dealing with the prisoners, adding that he had "no ability to determine whether the information we received is solid."

Netanyahu added that current estimates say "that there could be something here [to end] a tragedy that afflicts a missing [soldier] or his family, who aren't Jewish, and who are looking everywhere with no success."

"At the end of the day, decisions have to be made, "the premier told Army Radio, saying that "in the past I returned Ilan Grapel, and that involved a price as well, and we're working toward [Jonathan] Pollard's release."

Netanyahu said that such efforts were "never ending, because that is our duty."

The deal was revealed by Channel Two News on Sunday night. According to the report, Ami Palmor, the head of the Justice Ministry's amnesty division, has already signed the unusual amnesty agreement, which is contingent upon locating the body of the missing soldier.

Under the agreement, a convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison and a convicted drug dealer would be released from prison, in exchange for a map marking the alleged location of Halabi's grave.

According to information from the Justice Ministry, the source of the information is another prisoner, who is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for two separate murder convictions.