Shalit family asks Netanyahu to confirm reports on prisoner swap
Family wants to know whether PM delaying deal; Abbas: Shalit mediator threatening to quit.
The family of Gilad Shalit asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau on Saturday evening to confirm a number of recent reports on the state of negotiations with Hamas to secure the abducted Israeli soldier's release.
The family was mainly referring to a report by Fox News on Friday that Netanyahu had been reluctant to sign a deal presented to him three weeks ago. The network further reported that the prime minister's seven most senior cabinet members were divided over the proposed agreement.
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.
Shimshon Liebman, a leader in the campaign to free Gilad expressed his concern over the situation.
"As we understand it, it is inconceivable that Gilad's problem won't be solved in the coming days," Liebman said.
Liebman warned that the efforts to secure Gilad's release may share the same fate as those for missing Israel Airf Force navigator Ron Arad. "We are still positive and trust that the prime minister will find the leadership and bravery and return Gilad to his home," he said.
Abbas: Shalit mediator threatening to quit
The German mediator involved in negotiations for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has threatened to quit unless a deal is reached within weeks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in comments published Saturday.
Abbas told the official 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.
The Palestinian leader quoted Israeli sources as saying the German mediator had given a deadline of two or three weeks for a deal to be carried out, but it was unclear when it began and when it would expire.
He added that German mediation was unnecessary to begin with, since Egypt had already taken on the task, and that Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had made outstanding efforts to bring the situation to a resolution.
"I feel that Hamas made a mistake in asking the Germans, and others, to intervene," Abbas told the Egyptian paper. "What Egypt can't accomplish, others can't either."
Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the abducted soldier.
During the interview, Abbas criticized Hamas as being dependent on Iran, saying that his Fatah movement had backed a recent Egyptian initiative to reconcile between the rival Palestinian factions while Hamas rejected the initiative under Iranian pressure. He said that Iran had paid Hamas $250 million not to sign the deal.
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 attempted to use media disinformation to influence the Palestinian public and the families of the Palestinian prisoners to exert pressure on Hamas. He explained that Hamas seeks a "respectable deal" and to see the release of the maximum number of Palestinian prisoners.
The Hamas official also addressed efforts to reconcile his party with the rival Fatah, saying that talks had reached a dead end.