Contrasting Schalit messages circulate

Kidnapped soldier expected to be high on agenda in Defense Ministry envoy's talks with Egyptians.

Gilad Schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Starkly contrasting messages regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit emerged Wednesday night, with Channel 2 reporting that senior ministers favor "paying a heavy price" for his release, and Egypt's foreign minister saying neither Egypt nor Israel know whether he is still alive. According to the Channel 2 report, the heavy blow inflicted on Hamas during Operation Cast Lead has convinced some ministers who had in the past opposed the release of hundreds of terrorists with blood on their hands for Schalit, to modify their positions. Schalit is expected to be very high on the agenda of Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad's talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Thursday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, told Channel 2 that he believes the military operation in Gaza, "in more ways than one, possibly moved forward the chance that we could make progress on Gilad Schalit." At he same time, Barak said Israel should not "delude ourselves," and there were still very "difficult decisions" on the matter to be made. AFP, meanwhile, quoted Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit as saying neither Egypt nor Israel know whether Schalit is alive. "Whether Schalit is alive or not alive, this is a question that needs investigation now," Gheit said. "I have no information and I believe the Israeli side has no information, either." Israeli government officials said Israel believes that Schalit is alive. Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of Hamas' political wing, said Wednesday that Hamas "cannot talk about Gilad Schalit until Israel verifies what happened to the captured soldier. It's possible that they bombed him like they bombed other detainees during their latest operation in the Gaza Strip." Last week, another senior Hamas official told the London-based Al-Hayat that "it's possible Gilad Schalit was injured and it is possible that he is fine. It doesn't interest us any longer. "We did not allocate special security to him because he is equal in worth to a cat or less. His fate doesn't concern us and doesn't preoccupy us any longer." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted in October as saying Schalit was in good health. "Under no circumstances should he be mistreated," the Egyptian state-run MENA news agency quoted him as saying. "Palestinians are not stupid. They must seriously consider what the consequences would be if they kill him."