Exclusive: Hamas to hear Olmert-Barak’s Gaza truce plan in Cairo. Military operation on back burner

debkafile‘s military and Middle East sources report that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak informed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak at their meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh Monday, May 19, that the kidnapped Israel soldier Gilead Shalit must be included in the ceasefire deal. However, Egyptian go-betweens headed by intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman did not agree to present this demand as unconditional when they lay out Israel’s terms to a Hamas delegation from Damascus Tuesday, May 20.
Israel and Hamas have been using Cairo’s good office to negotiate a ceasefire.
Without consulting the security cabinet, our military sources reveal that Olmert and Barak have finally come down in favor of a truce with Hamas instead of a substantial military operation to eliminate the Palestinian fundamentalists’ war machine and wipe out the missiles plaguing their Israeli neighbors. Had they done so, they might not have gained majority approval for a truce.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources disclose that Hamas responded by raising the price for releasing the soldier it snatched two years ago, namely more jailed terrorists “with blood on their hands” Israel has offered 72 of these hardened murderers and held back on the 280 others on Hamas’ list. But after relenting on Hamas’ truce demand, Olmert and Barak are expected to compromise on this issue as well.
Olmert’s statement at the Sunday, May 18, government session in Jerusalem that the Gaza situation cannot go on and Israel “is very close to the point of a decision” on this issue is seen by inside sources as an attempt to mislead the go down more smoothly if Gilead Shalit were part of the deal.
What is really close at hand, according to debkafile‘s military sources, is the deal for a ceasefire. Two key questions are still outstanding:
1. The number of jailed Palestinian murderers Israel is willing to trade for Shalit.
2. How and what stage Israel will lift its blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. This will entail throwing open all the enclave’s border crossings at some point as part of the reciprocal ceasefire package.
3. Egyptian leaders have promised to do their best to close down the smuggling of Palestinian arms and terrorists trained in Iran in order to strengthen the ceasefire. But to date, these assurances have never held up for long.
The Barak-Mubarak interview Monday has a good chance of settling both these questions. Mubarak, who wants closure on the Gaza question, knows that in these matters, the Israeli defense minister is the man to do business with.

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