Ehud Barak 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that there is a grain of truth
behind recent reports about renewed negotiations between Israel and Hamas for the release of
defense minister added that he believes there were serious talks with
Hamas "twice in the past five years, but they weren't successful."
"I don't want to say anything [about Schalit]
because I don't think it helps," Barak said in an interview with Tel
Aviv Nonstop Radio on Tuesday.
'Israel willing to 'pay the price' for freeing Schalit'
Hamas optimistic over exchange deal for Schalit
But asked specifically about a report
Tuesday morning that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was heading to Cairo
amid increased Israeli flexibility in the deal, Barak said, "There is a
grain of truth in the rumors."
"These reports are part of the process but I prefer not to speak [about it]," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Hamas
leader Khaled Mashaal was expected to arrive in Cairo on Tuesday as
part of a third round of indirect negotiations with Israel over the
release of Gilad Schalit.
Palestinian sources said that Israel is
now being more flexible on issues that were previously rejected,
according to the report.
One of the issues now on the table, sources told Al-Hayat, is the release of Israeli Arabs and east Jerusalem residents, which Israel had previously refused to discuss.
to reports in the paper earlier this week, a delegation from Jerusalem
and the Islamist group met last week but failed to produce any results
in negotiations, prompting Egyptian mediators to push for renewed talks.
A senior Egyptian official told Al-Hayat
Monday "It is not yet possible to talk about any breakthroughs in
negotiations," but added optimistically that "there is a real
willingness by both sides to move forward on the deal, and Israel is
ready to pay the price for freeing Schalit."
The negotiations were reportedly taking place in an Egyptian
intelligence complex, with Palestinians and Israelis meeting with
Egyptian officials in separate rooms. Egyptian mediators would then
carry messages from room to room in order to conduct negotiations.
A senior Hamas official said last week that his movement expects
“positive developments” in efforts to achieve a prisoner swap with
Israel in return for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Damascus-based Hamas “political
bureau,” said that his optimism was based on “internal pressure” on the
Israeli government and changes in the makeup of the mediating team, Al-Hayat reported.