noam Schalit cap 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit still appears to be a long way from home. On Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak revealed that contrary to recent Arab media reports, Israel has yet to renew negotiations for the tank gunner's release.
Thursday will be the third anniversary of Schalit's capture by Hamas in a raid just outside the Gaza Strip.
Barak flew to Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman. Following the meeting, Barak said that Hagai Hadas - the former Mossad official recently appointed as envoy to the Schalit talks - was building his team and preparing for a new round of negotiations.
"At the moment there are no negotiations regarding Gilad Schalit," Barak said. "There is an intention to renew the talks soon and we will do everything necessary to bring Schalit home."
Barak and Mubarak discussed a wide range of issues, including the ongoing protests in Iran, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks and the continued arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptians spoke with Barak about their plan to deploy a military delegation in the Gaza Strip to monitor an agreement between Hamas and Fatah, if one is reached. Palestinian unity talks recently ended in Cairo without an agreement. An Egyptian defense delegation maintained a permanent presence in Gaza until Hamas's violent takeover in the summer of 2007.
Following the meetings, Barak said he supported a regional peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"When we deal just with the Palestinians, we are the only side that has what to give and the Palestinians are always the underdog," he said. "The moment though that you spread out from Tunis to Teheran you suddenly see that Israel is the isolated entity, is threatened and that there is a lot to give it in confidence-building measures and normalization."