PM Appoints Veteran Mossad Official as New Shalit Negotiator

David Meidan to replace Hagai Hadas, who announced his resignation last week; Noam Shalit says 'there's nothing new' after meeting with Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed veteran Mossad official David Meidan as his new coordinator for negotiations to secure the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Netanyahu announced yesterday.

Meidan will leave his post as head of Mossad's foreign relations department to take the job. He will be replacing Hagai Hadas, who announced his resignation last week.

Noam Shalit, Silvan Shalom
Meged Gozni

The appointment, which will take effect shortly, is meant to signal the importance of the international element of the efforts to reach a deal, as Shalit negotiations with Hamas have been conducted through German mediator Gerhard Conrad for the past two years.

"There's nothing new, and the entire matter relates to technical issues," said Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, after meeting with Netanyahu last night.

The prime minister met with the captive soldier's parents to inform them of the appointment before issuing a public statement.

"The coordinator is not the issue, because you don't need a coordinator - it's in the prime minister's hands," said Shimshon Liebman, who heads the campaign for Shalit's release.

Earlier in the day, Aviva Shalit, Gilad's mother, accused Netanyahu of attempting to unduly frighten the public when discussing the price Israel will have to pay for a deal - in other words, the possibility that securing Gilad Shalit's release would require Israel to free imprisoned terrorists who could end up killing more Israelis down the line.

"We do not accept the prime minister's scare tactics," she said. "The people aren't stupid, they understand that he is trying to brainwash them."

The Shalit family is only interested in politicians' actions, not their sympathy, she added.

"We're already up to our necks in sympathy and support," she said when Agriculture Minister Orit Noked of Labor stopped by outside the Prime Minister's Office, where the Shalit campaign protests during the weekly cabinet meeting.

"Do everything to bring Gilad home before it's too late. The few who stop here are expressing empathy. We need people to bang on the table. We don't need empathy, we need Gilad," Aviva Shalit told Noked.

Noked's bureau said she was not interested in responding directly to the comments, saying only that she supports "a deal that will bring Gilad home, and quickly."

Fifth Passover in captivity

Many Israelis are expected to join the Shalit family in their protest tent tonight, when they will be marking their fifth Passover seder since Gilad's seizure by Palestinian militants during a cross-border raid near Gaza.

President Shimon Peres plans to make his first-ever visit to the family's protest tent outside Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem sometime today.