Egypt proposes new deal on Shalit

J'lem officials: No connection between prisoner swap and Mecca agreement.

Gilad Shalit 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Shalit 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Egypt has proposed a new initiative to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, the spokesperson for the Popular Resistance Committees, Abu-Mujahav, said Sunday morning. In an interview with the United Arab Emirates newspaper, el-Halidaj, Abu-Mujahav refused to divulge any details of the initiative, saying only that "if Israel agrees, the prisoner swap will get under way - but the Palestinians will never give up their demands." Last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said a deal for Shalit's release was close to fruition. "A renewal in the peace process depends on the soldier which is currently in the hands of the Palestinians - so long as there are no surprises right before the end," Mubarak said. He added that negotiations for Shalit's release also depended on a resolution to the fighting between Fatah and Hamas. On Thursday, Hamas and Fatah came to an accord in Mecca for the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government. However, there were contradictory assessments over the weekend as to whether the Hamas-Fatah agreement would move negotiations forward for Shalit's release. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said in Spain on Friday that the release of Shalit, who is being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, would assist in advancing a diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Also, security officials predicted that there was a possibility that the creation of the Palestinian national unity government would accelerate the negotiations over Shalit's release. The officials said that it would be in the new government's "best interest" to release the kidnapped soldier in order to obtain international recognition. However, senior government officials in Jerusalem said there was no connection between the talks on a prisoner release and the Mecca agreement. "There is no optimism that this changes the situation in any way," the official said of the Hamas-Fatah agreement. "It doesn't move Shalit's release farther away or make it any closer."