Gilad Schalit in uniform 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel will on Saturday night publish the names of the first batch of prisoners
to be released in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, making his
return home possible as early as Tuesday, officials in the Prime Minister’s
Office said on Thursday.
David Meidan, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s pointman on the Schalit affair, is expected to travel to Cairo on
Saturday night to work out the final details of the deal approved by the cabinet
earlier this week.
Timeline of the proposed prisoner exchange
Schalits arrive home in Mitzpe Hila after meeting Peres
Prison Service preparing release of Palestinian prisoners
Under the agreement, Israel will immediately release
450 male prisoners on a list of names drawn up with Hamas, and another 27 female
prisoners, and then get Schalit in return. Israel will then free another 550
prisoners of its own choosing in two months.
Once the list of the 477
prisoners to immediately be released is published, the public will have 48 hours
to petition the decision to the High Court of Justice. If all legal obstacles
are cleared, the deal can go through.
Among the issues Meidan is expected
to work out in Cairo are the mechanics of how the release will take place, as
well as the final list of countries expected to take in some 40 prisoners who
will be deported overseas.
Of the prisoners, 110 – half of them
members – will return to their homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
These, according to government officials, are the prisoners
considered the lowest security risks. Fifty-five of them will be under
supervision and have to check in periodically with authorities.
highest security threats – some 40 prisoners – are to be deported overseas. The
names of the countries that will take them in have not yet been announced,
although there is speculation that Turkey may be one of them.
Shimon Peres on Tuesday said he was “pleasantly surprised by the Turkish
government’s stand” on the Schalit deal, but did not elaborate, raising
speculation that Turkey either expressed a willingness to take in some of the
Palestinian prisoners, helped convince Hamas that it should accept the deal, or
Another 165 prisoners from the West Bank will be exiled to the Gaza
When Israel publishes the list of the prisoners, it will list
their names, the crimes they committed, and when they were sentenced. The list
is not expected to specify which prisoners will be deported.
Thursday evening spoke by phone with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head
of Egypt’s ruling military council, and thanked him for the central role his
country played in putting together the deal.
“Your assistance warmed the
hearts of every Israel citizen,” the prime minister said, according to a
statement put out by his office.
Netanyahu also spoke by phone with US
Secretary of Clinton Hillary Clinton, who according to his office praised the
decision as a courageous one.
Government officials played down concern
that the prisoner swap would strengthen Hamas over the long run, and would make
it more difficult for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renew
talks with Israel because of a concern of seeming too “moderate” in comparison
With the Schalit deal nearing completion, the government is
expected in the near future to discuss recommendations of a special committee
set up by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in July 2008, when Ehud Olmert was prime
minister, to determine guidelines for conducting negotiations for the release of
The government has held up publicizing these guidelines
until after a deal for Schalit was reached. The committee was headed by former
Supreme Court justice Meir Shamgar.
In Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Barak
argued that Israel now needed to draw up a new policy regarding future swaps,
making clear both to the enemy and the Israeli public what price Israel would,
and would not, be willing to pay in the future.
Government officials said
that while a number of ministers supported this idea in the cabinet, they also
voiced doubt about whether it could ever be implemented.