debkafile Exclusive: Olmert bids for Finnish mediator to negotiate Israeli soldier’s release from Hamas – after the Egyptian effort came to grief
After a short delay FM Tzipi Livni is due in Helsinki this week to explore the possibility of the veteran mediator Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, undertaking the mission. She will be coming from talks in Moscow.
This step is disclosed by debkafile‘s intelligence sources. It contradicts the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s reiteration after Sunday`s cabinet meeting that Israel will not be blackmailed or negotiate for the freedom of Corporal Gilead Shalit, who was kidnapped on the Israeli side of the Gaza border exactly a week ago. If Olmert sticks to this position, he commits Israel to launching extended, intensified military action in the Gaza Strip, with the risk of igniting the Lebanese and Syrian borders.
In Moscow, Livni, without much hope of success, will try and enlist president Vladimir Putin to bring his influence to bear with Syrian president Vladimir Putin and Hamas to help end the crisis before it gets further out of hand.
debkafile adds: Recruiting Ahtisaari would initiate an agonizingly slow process and condemn Gideon Shalit to weeks if not months in captivity. The Finnish mediator, an outstanding expert on Muslim affairs and negotiations, has just wound up one of his less succession missions in Kosovo on behalf of the United Nations. Specializing in prisoner exchanges, the former Finnish president takes a broad, comprehensive approach to a crisis, which in the case of the Israeli corporal might well entail cross-contacts with the Hizballah and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. He is believed to have good connections with the Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf Al- Qaradawi, a mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood and a recognized religious authority for all parts of Hamas.
This avenue is being broached on the day the hostage issue and Gaza crisis enter its second week. Israel is caught with one foot in Gaza in an untenable position. It cannot go back and has little choice but to go forward and embark on a full-scale war to fight Hamas and its terrorist allies to the finish. The intervening week was time wasted for the IDF. The Olmert government was held back by internal disputes and a misjudged decision to hang on for Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to come up with results. Israel now finds itself maneuvered by Mahmoud Abbas, with Cairo’s help, into an all-out offensive to drive Hamas out of Palestinian government and make way for the restoration of his Fatah.