It's Ridiculous to Think Ilan Grapel Is an Israeli Spy, Father Tells Haaretz

Daniel Grapel says yet to receive official confirmation on a swap deal with Egypt to secure his son's release, saying he was able to talk to his son on the phone every other week.

In a conversation with Haaretz on Monday, the father of suspected Israeli spy Ilan Grapel said he hoped a deal between Israel and Egypt to secure his son's release had in fact been signed, saying that he had not been given official word by Israeli officials.

Earlier Monday, the Prime Minister's Office indicated that Israel and Egypt reached a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the release of the suspected Israeli spy, with the cabinet set to meet on Tuesday to give the deal a final seal of approval.

Grapel, who holds both Israeli and American citizenships, has been held in Egypt since June 12.

Ilan Grapel

Grapel was first charged with espionage, but the charges were later changed to incitement, insurrection, and damaging a public building during the uprising that took place in Egypt earlier this year.

"We've yet to receive any word on the deal, only from the media and from the congressman who had been working for Ilan from [the United States]," Daniel Grapel told Haaretz on Monday, saying: "Until we see him these bizarre story will continue."

Israeli officials later indicated that the Grapel family was indeed updated on the deal.

"It's been going on for 4 months, anyone who knows Ilan in Israel knows that these spying stories aren't even funny, it's beyond ridiculous," he said.

Referring to the proximity of the reported deal between Israel and Egypt to the Shalit prisoner swap deal, which was mediated by Egypt and completed last week, Daniel Grapel said that the family has "heard all kinds of comparisons between [Ilan] and Gilad Shalit, and while it's a completely different story, that doesn't make it easier for the family."

Grapel's father said that the American consul in Cairo made it possible for him to talk with Ilan every other week on the phone, with the suspected Israeli spy speaking not from his jail cell but from the prosecutor's office.

"By the sound of his voice it appeared that he was in good health, and about his mental state, you can't really hear that much when you're waiting to hear every word," he said, adding: "We're just waiting anxiously to see that it’s a hundred-percent certain."

"We thought it would be resolved quickly, but it went on for week after week, and it became a political story, with discussions in the highest levels, between the Egyptians and the [U.S.] State Department," Daniel Grapel said, adding: "We're just crossing our fingers that its goes ahead without a hitch, and that it will be done with as soon as possible."

In a statement released earlier Monday, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, who had been working for Grapel's release, said: "Ilan’s release is terrific news. We cannot be more relieved and gratified that Ilan will finally be freed and that he will soon be reunited with his family."

"For four long months, we worked tirelessly to win Ilan’s release, and at last this long and terrible ordeal that Ilan and his loved ones have been forced to endure is almost over," the statement said, adding that "from the beginning, I was assured by the highest levels in Israel that in no way did Ilan have anything to do with espionage, the Mossad or any other type of spy agency."

"Ilan is a wonderful young man who loves Egypt and the Egyptian culture. He's a person deeply committed to the cause of humanity and bringing people together, and just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time," Ackerman added, expressing his deep appreciation to the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as well as a number of very senior leaders in our government and in the Israeli government, all of whom we worked very closely with to keep this process moving steadily toward resolution, to keep Ilan's family fully-informed, and to maintain focus on the real goal of fixing the original mistake that put Ilan into Egyptian custody."