olmert angry 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
If Hamas wants a cease-fire, first it needs to release Cpl. Gilad Shalit and then stop firing rockets at Israel, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Saturday night.
The comments came in response to a five-point truce proposal that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued Saturday, calling on Israel to stop its offensive and release prisoners.
"If we want to get out of the current crisis, it is necessary to return to calm, on the basis of a mutual halt to all military operations," said a statement issued by cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad in Haniyeh's name.
Hamas also urged Israel to open negotiations over the fate of Shalit. It did not, however, say what Hamas would do in return.
One senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made clear since the outset of the crisis two weeks ago that the first thing that needed to be done was for the Palestinians to release Shalit. After that, he said, "we will respond to quiet with quiet of our own."
The official said that Israel had no intention of remaining in positions that the IDF had moved into inside the Gaza Strip, and that Israel did not leave Gaza 10 months ago with the intention of returning. He said that if Kassam rocket fire continues after the IDF once again leaves Gaza, the IDF would return. "We can go in and come out very quickly," he said.
Olmert's office also issued a statement over the weekend distancing the prime minister from comments Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter made in Tel Aviv Friday. Dichter said Israel may release Palestinians to free Shalit, and that in the past Israel had freed hostages "in exchange for calm."
"The release of prisoners in exchange for an end to the Kassam rocket fire on Israel is an attainable goal," Dichter said.
"We've done it in the past to free hostages and in exchange for calm," Dichter said, adding, "We all hope Gilad will come home safe and sound."
Dichter said that once Shalit was released, and if rocket fire ended, then Israel, "as it has done in the past" and as a goodwill gesture, "knows how to free prisoners."
A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office said Olmert's position regarding the release of prisoners "remains the same." Olmert has said consistently since Shalit's abduction that Israel would not free Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his release.
The source said that Dichter's comments were "made on his own" and do not reflect Olmert's view.
Olmert has not yet spoken to Dichter about the issue, but the matter was expected to be aired at Sunday's cabinet meeting, where the ministers will be briefed on the recent events in Gaza.