Grapel, Hasson and Molcho 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dual Israeli-US citizen Ilan Grapel is scheduled to be released from Egyptian
jail and return to Israel on Thursday, after the 14-member security cabinet
unanimously approved a deal freeing 25 Egyptian prisoners for his
Grapel was arrested in Cairo on June 12 and initially held on
charges of spying for Israel. These charges were later downgraded to trying to
incite violence among the Egyptian protesters who took to Tahrir Square to bring
down president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
MK Hasson: Ilan Grapel treated fairly in Egyptian prison
may be freed same day as Schalit'
wary of Egyptian public's response to Grapel deal'
charges Grapel with setting fire to police stations'
approving the Grapel swap took place a week after IDF soldier Gilad Schalit was
released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian terrorists. But unlike the first 477
prisoners who were released, who served time in the prisons’ security wings, all
the Egyptians to be released were housed in the criminal divisions of Israeli
According to a list of the prisoners placed Tuesday afternoon on
the Prisons Service website, 10 of the 25 prisoners are serving jail time for
weapons offenses, such as trying to smuggle arms or explosives into the country.
They are not considered security prisoners, however, as the arms they were
smuggling were intended for criminals inside Israel, not
Another 10 prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, and the
remaining five for other criminal offenses.
One government official said
the successful conclusion of this deal, together with Egypt’s active
participation in negotiating the Schalit swap, showed that despite the challenges in the
relationship with Egypt as a result of Mubarak’s ouster, “the bilateral
relations remain open, communications are good, and cooperation
According to a Prime Minister’s Office statement released
after the security cabinet vote, Binyamin Netanyahu directed the officials
dealing with the matter to make all efforts to also free Ouda Tarabin
Israeli in Egyptian jails. Tarabin, a Beduin shepherd, has been held for 11
years on espionage charges after illegally entering Egypt to visit his
Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that he was expected to be freed as
part of the Grapel deal in the coming weeks, but that his release was more
complicated since he was already convicted by Egyptian courts, whereas Grapel
had not yet stood trial.
Details of the deal were presented to the
security cabinet by the prime minister’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, who helped
negotiate it, and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram
Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet,
was also involved in the negotiations, since he has connections to Field Marshal
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling military council and its de
facto head of state.
The Prime Minister’s Office statement said the
cabinet members thanked the US for its assistance in reaching the deal. The US,
diplomatic officials said, has been intimately involved in the Grapel case, with
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta raising it in Cairo during his recent visit
Grapel, whose family lives in Queens, New York, moved to Israel
after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and enlisted in the
Paratroop Brigade. He fought in the Second Lebanon War and was wounded during
fighting near the southern Lebanese town of Taibe in August 2006. At the time of
his arrest he was studying law at Emory University in Atlanta