Top seven cabinet ministers direct prisoner negotiator to carry on

No clear decision was reported by the seven-minister forum in the small hours of Tuesday, Dec. 22, when it wound up 48 hours of deliberations on the deal with Hamas to release Gilead Shalit, held more than three years, against nearly a thousand Palestinian prisoners. The prime minister’s office said only that the ministers had instructed Israel’s negotiating team headed by Hagai Hadas “to carry on working for Gilead Shalit’s return safe and well.”
debkafile adds: Although the captive soldier’s parents campaigned dramatically for a positive outcome, the
cabinet led by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was virtually tied down to a negative decision on the deal negotiated thus far with Hamas by the stern warnings from all three of Israel’s intelligence agencies chiefs, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin of AMAN, Yuval Diskin of the Shin Bet and Meir Dagan of the Mossad.
They told the seven ministers that the release of some 100 hard-core terror practitioners and masterminds convicted to life in jail to their homes on the West Bank would wipe out eight years of relentless 24/7 work for holding Palestinian terror at bay. A fresh wave of violence would inevitably erupt and once again engulf the central Israeli heartland abutting on the West Bank.
Banishing this group from the country was no proof against this, the ministers realized – even if Hamas accepted this plan as a compromise for getting the deal approved. Once they reached Damascus, these mass killers would provide Hamas headquarters there with a strong operational command for running Palestinian terror on the West Bank. Syrian president Bashar Assad would gain a strong Palestinian card on the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip.
These considerations determined the outcome of the cabinet’s final decision with regard to the prisoner swap, namely that negotiations for a better deal would continue. The German mediator would be informed accordingly. Hamas spokesmen announced Monday that whatever Israel decided, they remained open to continuing the negotiating process.
debkafile reported earlier: Gilead Shalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, stood by throughout the marathon debate, backed by enormous popular support for their high-exposure campaign on behalf of their son whom Hamas kidnapped in a cross-border incursion. It was endorsed by many servicemen, parents and the media.
However, as debkafile‘s sources reported at the outset of the seven-minister forum’s session, heavy counter-pressure to reject Hamas’ latest offer came from Israeli intelligence agencies, the United States and Egypt, which sent its intelligence minister General Omar Suleiman to Jerusalem Sunday to urge the Israeli government to hold back from the deal, because it would give Hamas a cheap victory.
US president Barack Obama instructed US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to lean hard on the Israeli government. He has been on the phone repeatedly with the prime minister and defense minister’s offices to warn them that giving in to Hamas would sign the death warrant of Middle East peacemaking.
Gen. Suleiman called on defense minister Ehud Barak and president Shimon Peres as Netanyahu’s closest advisers with the following message:
“You Israelis have gone completely mad. We are making every effort possible to force Hamas to bury the hatchet with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. We are building an iron barrier deep underground to block arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Then, at the critical moment, you come along and offer Hamas a life-saver for backing away from a Palestinian reconciliation!”
For the last four days, Hamas snipers have been firing at the Egyptian teams working on Iron Blind in the border town of Rafah. Yet the work goes on.

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