Peretz: Schalit was almost freed 2 weeks after capture

Former defense minister Amir Peretz says a deal negotiated through Egyptian mediators "blew up"; pursued negotiations through Syria.

311_ amir peretz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
311_ amir peretz
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
MK Amir Peretz revealed in an interview with Chanel 2 on Saturday night that a deal for Gilad Schalit's release had been negotiated almost immediately after his capture in 2006.
According to Peretz, who was defense minister when Schalit was captured, the deal had been fully negotiated with two high-level Egyptian officers who were in the Gaza Strip, but "something blew up" on the other end and the deal fell through. 
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"[Former] prime minister Olmert told me that apparently a deal was set and that Gilad will be released on Friday at four o'clock in the afternoon and it's done," Peretz said. "We expected to receive a message from Mubarak and we promised to release prisoners to Abu Mazen (PA President Mahmoud Abbas), but something blew up there."
Peretz said they continued to explore other negotiating options in the following months, even turning to high-level officials in the Hamas leadership in Syria.
"We didn't even hesitate to negotiate with officials in Syria - that went up to Khaled Mashaal. A month and a half after the kidnapping, we appointed a coordinator. We acted decisively to find a military option as if there were no negotiation, and conducted negotiations as if there were no military option."
Ultimately, Peretz blamed intelligence failures for precluding military actions to free Schalit.
Schalit was released last week after five-and-a-half years in captivity in a prisoner exchange deal for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, 477 of whom have already been freed.