Netanyahu Tells Egyptian Leader: Your Assistance in Shalit Deal 'Warms the Hearts of All Israelis'

Prime Minister calls interim ruler Tantawi and expresses gratitude for 'great and successful effort over the past few months.'

Two days after signing the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal, it seems the agreement may also have a positive effect on the strained relations between Israel and Egypt. On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Egypt's interim ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and thanked him for his country's assistance in negotiating the deal.

"You have made great and successful efforts over the past few months," Netanyahu said in the phone call. "Your assistance warms the hearts of all Israeli citizens."

Benjamin Netanyahu - Avi Ohayon - 11.10.2011
Avi Ohayon

The conversation between the two is only the second one to take place since the revolution in Egypt in January.

On Thursday, the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm reported that Egypt and Israel are also working on a deal to swap an Israeli man, held in Cairo on spying charges, for 81 Egyptian prisoners held by Israel.

"The deal has already reached an advanced stage," the paper said, quoting what it called "well-informed Egyptian sources."

Ilan Grapel, 27, was arrested in Cairo in June on suspicion of spying for Israel's external intelligence agency, Mossad.

Meanwhile, the Shalit deal also may have an effect on the complicated relations between Fatah and Hamas. Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and updated him on the deal. The two agreed to meet in the near future to discuss a reconciliation agreement. On Wednesday, Abbas also spoke with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

On Thursday, Hamas began releasing the names of Palestinian prisoners due to be released as part of the deal, a list which includes some top Hamas officials.

Most prominent on the list is Yehia Sanwar, one of Shalit's abductor's, and the brother of whom is considered to be one of the founders of Hamas' military wing.

The list also specifies the names of the six Israeli Arab prisoners due to be released, as well as terrorists who participated in the abduction of border patrolman Nissim Toledano.

According to Egyptian sources, Egypt presented 20 different offers to Israel and Hamas during the last three months in order to close the gap between the two sides and reach a final agreement.

In the final round of talks, Israel agreed to release 40 prisoners out of 70 that it had refused to release previously.