Ben-Simon: It was only an assessment

MK Ben-Simon Schalit de

After various media outlets reported on Saturday that Labor MK Daniel Ben-Simon had claimed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu personally told him a deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit would take place within one to two weeks, Ben-Simon stressed on Saturday evening that he was only making assessments and had not discussed the matter with the premier. "I did not speak to the prime minister at all," the Labor MK told Army Radio. "I was only making assessments based on conversations with government sources." On Saturday morning, Ben-Simon attended a conference in Beersheba, where he predicted that the prisoner exchange deal would take place soon. "Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told me that the Schalit deal will take place in a week or two," the MK said. "The deal was stuck for three years because former prime minister Ehud Olmert was not willing to pay the price Hamas was demanding." The Prime Minister's Office hurriedly issued a statement denying Ben-Simon's remarks. At the Beersheba event, Ben-Simon praised Netanyahu, saying "I must give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu credit in this case. Only the Right can make decisions which the Left could not afford to make. The Right implements policies envisioned by the Left." Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, serving multiple life sentences, was also on the list of prisoners set to be released in exchange for Schalit, Ben-Simon claimed. Discussions on Barghouti were focusing on whether he would be allowed to return to Ramallah or be sent abroad for a "cooling-down" period, the lawmaker said. "It could be," Ben-Simon said, "that in two years Israel will negotiate with him." On the issue of peace talks with Syria, Ben-Simon said a peace deal was already well drafted out, and all that remained was for the sides to sign it. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu), speaking at the event before Ben-Simon, was quoted by Israel Radio as saying "it is not appropriate to say anything regarding the Schalit deal." Aharonovitch called Barghouti "a lowly murderer, deserving to rot in jail to the end of his days." Aharonovitch said he hoped Barghouti would not be included in any future deal, but said "let us leave names aside for now because we haven't reached that point." Last week, the High Court of Justice ruled that the proceedings of the Schalit deal would remain secret and that the names of terrorists to be released in any future deal would only be revealed 48 hours before the deal takes place. The court then rejected a petition by three bereaved fathers to reveal the proceedings leading to the deal.