livni - Emil Salman - August 3 2011
Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, August 3, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ) revealed yesterday that she was against the Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal. Livni's statements, in interviews with the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and the Reshet Bet radio station, drew heavy fire from both coalition and opposition lawmakers, who slammed her decision to remain silent and conceal her unpopular positions when the deal went public rather than defend them.

According to sources close to Livni, the Kadima chairwoman remained silent at the request of Noam Shalit, Gilad's father.

"Hamas was strengthened by the deal and gained legitimacy," Livni said yesterday, some two weeks after the government vote to approve the Shalit deal. "The supporters of the deal understand this too.

"Israel is currently losing its power of deterrence, with Hamas firing from Gaza and [Israel] unable to act against it as it did in the past," she continued.

Livni accused the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of failing to consider the effect the deal would have on Israel's relations with the Palestinian Authority. "From the viewpoint of those members of the government who do not want a settlement, the strengthening of Hamas may not be such a bad thing - but I believe in a settlement," Livni said.

"The release of the additional 550 prisoners must be coordinated with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and not with Hamas," she continued. "At the same time, there's a need to renew the diplomatic process as an expression of Israel's national interest and not as a favor to anyone."

Livni added that like the rest of the country, she too had been moved by the sight of Gilad returning.

"It is regrettable that Livni relates to Gilad Shalit like a reality outcast," said a statement from the Likud in response to Livni's remarks. "No less regrettable is the fact that she chose to be abroad on holiday when all the people of Israel were excited by his return.

"Livni is a cowardly politician who failed to speak up when she should have," the Likud statement read. "She seems to have forgotten that Gilad Shalit was captured when she was a high-ranking government minister. Apparently, she has also forgotten that she failed to bring him home ... Livni doesn't know the meaning of responsibility and acts out of political considerations that are unacceptable to the members of her party."