'German mediator back in region in Schalit deal efforts'

PM presented better proposal than Olmert, Hamas agreed but armed wing rejected deal, 'A-Sharq' reports; says deal distant today.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
April 15, 2011 11:25
2 minute read.
Captured soldier Gilad Schalit in video

Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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German mediator Gerhard Konrad is back in the region in efforts to reach a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, newspaper A-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Friday.

The report cited senior officials in Jerusalem as saying that a deal had previously been reached by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Hamas's political leadership but that the group's armed wing in the Strip rejected the offer.

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The official added that "Netanyahu presented a proposal to Hamas that was better than the proposals of former prime minister Ehud Olmert," A-Sharq reported.

A deal for Schalit's release, the report said, is nonetheless more and more distant from reaching a successful outcome.

Noam Schalit, father of captive soldier Gilad Schalit, said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and members of his bureau are trying to hide their inability to return Gilad by repeatedly scaring [the public] about terror attacks, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

Netanyahu is turning to the lowest common denominator of public anxiety, Schalit said, and is bringing up the Jibril Deal 26 years ago, "even though he knows that, today, the State of Israel knows how to deal with terrorists and with terror."

Earlier in April, London-based Al-Hayat cited a senior Hamas official as saying that Konrad had failed in talks to return Schalit and had returned to Germany.

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Deputy chairman of Hamas' political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Al-Hayat that Konrad had not succeeded in advancing the prisoner exchange and had been unable to make any breakthroughs and that "there is no way back."

Explaining the failure, he said that Konrad had not made an adequate effort to incorporate previous understandings reached under the previous government of Ehud Olmert into the current negotiations. The Hamas leader added that "now a breakthrough is no longer possible."

Abu Marzuk noted that while Konrad's role in the negotiations had ended, Hamas would "not oppose his return if the Israeli government wants it."

On Wednesday, Hamas officials said that they were "positively considering releasing a new tape of Gilad Schalit, but Israel will have to pay a price for it," reported Army Radio.

The statements were published Tuesday in the organization's official newspaper, al-Resalah.

"Will Schalit appear once again on the screen?" the article asked, and said that the release of "a video along with a photo of Gilad would put pressure on Netanyahu to start moving forward in making an exchange deal with Hamas for the release of Palestinian prisoners," Army Radio reported.

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