U.S.: We want Israel to free Fatah prisoners in Shalit deal
German mediator for Shalit's release has threatened to quit unless deal is reached within weeks.
The ministerial team negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit is reportedly split on whether to accept Hamas' terms for the deal.
The members of the ministerial team, along with envoy Hagai Hadash and a few senior officials in the defense establishment, are the only individuals receiving updates on indirect talks with Hamas, which are being mediated by a German broker.
A senior official in the U.S. administration told Haaretz that if the deal for Shalit's release is completed, the U.S. would be interested in seeing Israel releasing Fatah prisoners as well, in addition to other gestures to bolster's Fatah's status compared to Hamas. "We are telling the Israelis that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas' situation needs to be mitigated," the U.S. official said.
Abbas said that the German mediator involved in negotiations for Shalit's release has threatened to quit unless a deal is reached within weeks. Abbas told the state-owned Egyptian daily Al Ahram that negotiations over the prisoner exchange were a matter exclusively between Israel and Hamas and the German and French mediators, and that he was not involved.
On Friday, Fox News reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been reluctant to sign a deal presented to him three weeks ago to secure Shalit's release, adding that the prime minister's seven senior cabinet members were divided over the proposed agreement.
The family of Gilad Shalit asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau last night to confirm a number of recent reports on the state of negotiations with Hamas to secure the abducted Israeli soldier's release.
Activists in the campaign to free Gilad, as well as the Shalit family, say that up to this point, they haven't received an answer or any other information from the prime minister.
Meanwhile, the Gaza-based newspaper Palestine reported Saturday that Mohammed Nazzal, a senior Hamas official, said that the talks were frozen due to Israel's refusal to free a significant number of prisoners whose release Hamas demands.
Nazzal went on to say that Israel is attempting to use disinformation to influence the Palestinian public and the families of Palestinian prisoners to exert pressure on Hamas. He said Hamas seeks a "respectable deal" and the release of the maximum number of Palestinian prisoners.
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman will visit Israel today to discuss the Middle East peace process, according to an Al-Hayat report published on Friday. Though Egypt has been involved in talks for Shalit's release, Suleiman visit is not expected to focus on the deal for the release of the soldier Hamas captured in a cross-border raid more than three years ago. The report in Al-Hayat quoted Suleiman as saying that the impasse in the peace process was weakening the moderates in the Middle East, which could adversely affect the entire region. He reiterated that Israel must immediately stop all settlement construction.