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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
General Security Service (Shin Bet) head Yuval Diskin said at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that if Israel manages the current crisis correctly, the whole strategic picture with the Palestinians could change.
Speaking seperately, Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz, told ministers that a military operation on its own would not bring about the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
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"The main objective of the operation is to act against Hamas, which is behind the kidnapping," he said.
Diskin added that dealing with the kidnapping was not a one - or two-day event.
"This could take weeks or even months, and there is no magical solution," he said.
"There is a sequence of steps that we have to take to come out of this stronger and to come up with a new game plan for the Gaza Strip, for Hamas, and for the Palestinian Authority in general," he said.
Diskin pointed out that Hamas understands that keeping the kidnapped soldier alive is in their best interests as far as what they can get in return for his release.
In his words, senior members of the organization know that if the soldier is harmed, the consequences for them will be particularly harsh.
"They know that we will hunt down all those involved - every last one," he said.
Both Diskin and Halutz took the same position that Israel could not afford to release prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
"Every successful kidnapping encourages another two or three similar organizations," Diskin explained.
"This is the reason we cannot show any weakness in the Israeli position or willingness to free any prisoners in exchange for captives.
If we don't do this, we will encourage more and more kidnappings," he said.
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