Gilad Schalit 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The unstable political situation in Israel is partially responsible for holding up the negotiations over the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, a top government official involved in the talks said Wednesday.
According to the official, there has not been any progress in the talks in recent months and the latest assessments in the defense establishment are that a deal will not be struck until the formation of a new government, which will begin following the Kadima Party primaries next week.
In addition, the letter written by Gilad's father and brought to Syria last week by French President Nicolas Sarkozy has yet to be delivered to Schalit in Gaza.
Israel is currently in the process of drawing up a list of prisoners that it is willing to release in exchange for Schalit. Hamas is demanding that some 1,500 prisoners be released and has given Israel a list of 450 names of prisoners it wants included. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has expressed its objection to releasing all of the 450 prisoners on the list.
Meanwhile Wednesday, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, told a group of foreign diplomats that while the truce in Gaza has improved the conditions for Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas, a deal was "not close."
"Since the truce we are discussing more seriously, but I am impressed only by results," he said. "We are not close to the release of Gilad Schalit," he added.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, was quoted Wednesday in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper as saying that Israeli military action in Gaza could lead to more abductions of Israeli soldiers.
This, he said, could put Gazan resistance movements in a better position to demand the release of even more Palestinian prisoners. Israel holds some 9,000 Palestinians in its jails.
Gilad also told the forum that the current peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were not likely to bear fruit until Fatah retook Gaza from Hamas.
"It's very difficult to sign an agreement with half your body," he said.
AP contributed to the report.