Israel’s PM Office: No truce deal or opened Gaza crossings until Gilead Shalit is free

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem issued its first ever official announcement on Saturday, Feb. 14, the Jewish Sabbath, registering its exceptionally high importance.
The statement said: “No Gaza crossings will be opened unless Gilead Shalit (the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas since his June 2006 abduction) is free” Israel’s position as clarified to Egypt is that deals which fail to end Hamas attacks and release its soldier are unacceptable. “Every effort will be made to achieve those top-priority goals.”
By this statement, prime minister Ehud Olmert blew away the spate of reports put out by Cairo, Hamas, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s advisers and the Arab and Israeli media (debkafile excepted) alleging the imminence of a long-term truce accord. The PMO added that a decision on this issue Sunday would relate also to the outcome of the general election of Tuesday, Feb. 10. debkafile‘s political sources note that Barak’s Labor dropped to fourth place in the poll while the three lead parties, Kadima, Likud and Israeli Beitenu, pledged to abjure diplomacy of any kind with terrorists.
The Cairo truce talks ran aground, debkafile‘s high-placed military sources explain, over Egypt’s attempt to blend two conflicting drafts into an accord after presenting one to Israel and negotiating a separate one with Hamas. Egyptian mediator Gen. Omar Suleiman advised both to pretend to accept the other’s terms and then go their own way. He asked Amos Gilead, who shuttled between Cairo and Jerusalem on behalf of the defense minister, to formally accept Hamas’ terms to reopen the crossings to the Gaza Strip – and effectively end Israel’s embargo – and then keep them shut. Hamas negotiators Mahmoud A-Zahar and Mussa Abu Marzuk were similarly advised to agree to halt arms smuggling but not to follow through.
There is no truth in Hamas’ claim that Israel reneged on its consent to an 18-month truce. The fact is that it was put forward by Cairo as part of its double-level negotiating strategy.
Olmert’s move has had the effect of pulling the rug from under defense minister Barak and his policy of leaving key security issues relating to the Gaza Strip in Egypt’s hands.

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