'New European mediator for Schalit deal named'

'Al-Ahram' report says new mediator to replace Gerhard Conrad of Germany; Schalit family says not informed of appointment.

Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
As reports circulated about a renewed push to free abducted tank gunner Gilad Schalit, the English-language website of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Tuesday that a new European mediator had been appointed to replace Gerhard Conrad of Germany.
A spokesman for the Schalit family said it had not been informed of such an appointment.
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The report came two days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that David Meidan would replace Hagai Hadas as the government’s pointman on the issue.
On Tuesday, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzuk, told Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV that mediators were working on an exchange deal.
Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz said on Monday that efforts were under way to release Schalit, according to Army Radio.
“I can attest to the efforts being made to end this ugly and complex affair,” Gantz said during a Pessah Seder held with soldiers serving near Gaza.
On Monday, Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, faced their fifth Seder without their son, who was kidnapped in June 2006 and has been held since then by Hamas in Gaza.
They did not hold a Seder in the protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, where they have sat daily since July.
On Monday evening, they walked from their tent closer to Netanyahu’s residence, and sat on the curb for a number of hours, as most of Israel sat around a Seder table. In a message they sent to the media, Noam and Aviva said they wanted to remind Netanyahu that on this night, nothing had changed for them or for their son, who had spent 1,758 nights in a Hamas basement in the Gaza Strip.
Visitors who came to the tent walked to the curb to shake the couple’s hands.
“Gilad also deserves to celebrate this holiday of liberation after five long years,” Noam said.
In a letter published on Monday in Yediot Aharonot, Aviva wrote:
“Sometimes, when the days grow long and the tent becomes unexpectedly quiet, I find myself gazing at its entrance, waiting for that moment. All of a sudden, emerging out of the lazy afternoon light, happy voices and people fill up the tent. “It’s over, Aviva,” they say to me. “Gilad is coming home.
“And everything inside me smiles, and I feel my arms opening and my chest filling up with air again – as if I hadn’t taken a breath until that moment.
“That vision is so real sometimes, so vivid, that I find myself happy there, by the tent’s entrance. “But it remains empty,” she said.
On Monday and Tuesday, the family received scores of visitors, including high-profile ones such as President Shimon Peres; MK Shaul Mofaz of Kadima; former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, the daughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin; former Meretz MK Ran Cohen; and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
The president told the Schalit family that he had come to “identify with your pain, like all Israelis.
“I came to be with you and send a very clear message: that it is the state’s responsibility to bring Gilad home, healthy and in one piece,” he said.
“It is a supreme value, and efforts to secure his release must continue, especially now. It hurts me and all Israelis that Gilad is not with us,” Peres said.