Barak: Israel needs to rethink prisoner exchange policy

Livni "respects" gov't decision to make Schalit deal, warns of security consequences; Landau: Deal gives incentive for more kidnappings.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
October 12, 2011 11:53
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Defense Minister Ehud Barak 311. (photo credit: Linoy Elihai / Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that once Gilad Schalit is safely at home, Israel must think about changing its policy of prisoner exchanges to "suit the tough rules of this region."

Speaking with Army Radio, Barak said, "I'm completely at peace with carrying out this deal. Everything possible was done in order to eliminate the dangers of releasing the prisoners."

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The swap "
was the correct decision," he said.

Barak confessed that he and the other security chiefs serving in the past five years have always felt responsible for bringing Gilad Schalit home.

Saying that he met with the Schalit family in their protest tent hours after the cabinet voted to approve a prisoner swap deal with Hamas that will see their son released after five years in captivity, Barak called
the meeting "very emotional."

Tuesday, however, Barak suggested that "restraint" be exercised until Schalit was safely back in Israel.

He praised the negotiating team that came to an agreement with Hamas and praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for exhibiting "leadership, bravery and responsibility," that eventually led to the signing of the deal and its approval in the cabinet.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said overnight Sunday, "I respect the government's decision to bring about the release of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit."

Livni sent her blessings to the Schalit family and "all of Israel which sees Gilad as a family member."

The opposition leader expressed solidarity with the families of terror victims "who are also going through difficult times."

Livni stated that the release of terrorists from Israeli jails was a move which would have "complicated security consequences," adding that a discussion of future such events should be discussed following Schalit's return.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said that the cabinet decision to approve the prisoner exchange was "painful and difficult".

He added that it "had to be done" and that "it was preferable to do it today."

Home Front Security Minister Matan Vilna'i told Israeli Radio, "We are proving, for who knows how many times, that each of our soldiers is a world unto himself, and we will make a supreme effort to bring him home. The deal is a tough one, but it was the best possible to reach in these conditions."

He said the terms were thrashed out since secret negotiations got serious about three months ago did not give Hamas everything they asked for.

"We got the maximum we were able. And we are again proving that we will make supreme efforts to bring our soldiers home. It's the case for every family living in Israel," Vilna'i said.

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