Israeli Negotiator Overseeing Shalit Talks to Leave His Post

Hagai Hadas denies reports that he was resigning out of personal considerations, says he and Netanyahu agreed from the start that he would serve in the position for only two years.

The Israeli negotiator responsible for talks over the release of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit is leaving his post, it emerged on Wednesday.

Hagai Hadas, who has been negotiating via a German mediator for a prisoner exchange with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip for two years, denied reports by Channel 2 that he was resigning out of personal considerations and said he had accepted the post on the basis of a timely contract.

Gilad Shalit cardboard figures
Tess Scheflan

"I did not resign from my post," Hadas said in a statement released by the prime minister's office. "The prime minister and I agreed from the start that I would come to the post for a limited period of two years due to family obligations. That period is now over, and I will remain in my post until I find a replacement."

Hadas also said he fully supports the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been handling the negotiations for the release of Shalit, who has been in Palestinian captivity since he was abducted in a 2006 cross-border raid by militants from the Gaza Strip.

The prime minister's office said that Netanyahu has long been aware of Hadas' plans to leave his post and that the decision had no connection to details of the negotiations themselves.

Netanyahu's office also said it would appoint a replacement for Hadas as soon as possible.

Hamas has been insistent in its demand that some 1,400 prisoners be released from Israeli jails in return for handing over the Shalit. Israel has balked at a number of the names on Hamas' list - which includes some responsible for deadly terror attacks in Israel - agreeing to free around 980 prisoners.

Negotiations have stalled numerous times. Hamas last year accused Israel of changing its stance over points to which it had already agreed. Hamas sources have said that Israel is delaying the completion of the Shalit deal by refusing to release 50 Hamas officials it holds in its jails.