Egypt to Release Ilan Grapel Thursday

The security cabinet is set to meet on Tuesday to approve the deal.

Israel and Egypt have reached a deal to exchange 25 Egyptians imprisoned in Israel for the American-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel. A senior Israeli official said talks with Egypt would continue in the coming days toward the release of an Israeli citizen imprisoned in Egypt for the past 11 years, Ouda Tarabin.

The security cabinet is set to meet on Tuesday to approve the deal, and the exchange is expected to go forward on Thursday if the High Court of Justice rejects any petitions against the release of individuals on the list.

Ilan Grapel Tahrir

The prime minister's bureau said Monday that most of the 25 prisoners had been convicted of criminal acts, none involving the murder of Israelis.

Grapel, who has been in jail in Egypt since June 12, was initially charged with espionage, a charge that was subsequently amended to incitement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representatives to the talks were his associate Isaac Molcho, and MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ). Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, has ties to the Supreme Military Council chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

Egypt initially asked for the release of 81 prisoners before finally agreeing to 25. The agreement also includes an official Egyptian statement that Grapel was not a spy.

Sources in the prime minister's bureau said the United States had also exerted pressure on Egypt to release Grapel.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and other top brass conducted intensive talks with senior members of the Supreme Military Council. However, their appeals were rejected due to pressure from Egyptian public opinion.

Israel-Egypt relations took a turn for the better about a month ago due to progress on the Shalit swap and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's work toward an Israeli apology for killing Egyptian soldiers in a border incident in August. The improvement paved the way for the deal to release Grapel.