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Four of the five Knesset members who met yesterday with the family of Gilad Shalit declined to sign a petition calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since his June 2006 abduction.

The petition was written by the Shalits together with members of the Knesset caucus for the abducted soldier's release.

Opposition head and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni refused to sign, as did fellow Kadima MK Roni Bar-On and Likud MKs Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin.

The only lawmaker who did sign yesterday was MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ).

The caucus, formed in June, launched the petition last week. The first to sign were caucus members Shaul Mofaz (Kadima ), Eitan Cabel (Labor ) and Miri Regev (Likud ).

The petition, addressed to Netanyahu, states that while its writers understand the "fear of possible repercussions" of an exchange deal, asks that it be made in order to protect "our values and our moral and Jewish strength and our obligation to Israel Defense Force soldiers and out of the certain belief that we can protect our citizens, even on the day after."

Members of the organization working for Shalit's release said they were disappointed that the first day's request for signatories among lawmakers had resulted in four out of five refusals.

However, they noted that the first meetings had been set with MKs the group either knew opposed a prisoner swap or whose positions were unclear.

Kadima issued a statement in response: "As a rule, Livni does not sign petitions and protests. As far as the subject of Gilad Shalit goes, Livni has said in the past that in principle and due to the importance and sensitivity of the issue, she refrains from publicly expressing her views on the deal to avoid even the appearance of making it a political issue."