Israel is "disappointed" with the list of prisoners Palestinians are demanding in exchange for captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit, according to a statement released by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office Tuesday. The statement said Olmert convened a meeting of senior officials and intelligence commanders to discuss the list, and expressed "disappointment and reservations." The statement said there has been some progress in negotiations, but "the road to completion is still long."
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Ofer Dekel, head of the Israeli negotiating team, presented a list of 450 prisoners, submitted by Egyptian mediators, to the prime minister at the meeting.
The meeting was also attended by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin.
Officials in Jerusalem had said earlier Tuesday that Israel might refuse to release some of the prisoners on the list. The list represented roughly a third of the prisoners the Palestinians want freed as part of a prisoner swap deal.
The Palestinian demands will be the topic of discussion at a special session of the Security Cabinet on Sunday, Israeli officials said.
The statement after the Tuesday evening meeting cautioned against reading too much into news reports about the prisoner exchange "to avoid creating false expectations."
Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said two prominent Palestinians were on the list: Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life terms in prison, and Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, suspected of ordering and planning the 2001 assassination of former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi, though the attorney general ruled there was not enough evidence to try him for that. He is being held for other unspecified offenses.
In Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he hoped the negotiations would succeed. "This depends on the seriousness and the attitude of the Israelis to deal with the just Palestinian demands to release the prisoners," he said.
Meanwhile, a Hamas leader said negotiations for the release of Schalit were at a "satisfactory stage" but depend on Israel's response to the group's demands for the prisoner swap.
However, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, cast doubt on whether Olmert has the political strength to accept the deal. "The ball is now in Israel's court," he said late Monday night.
In a related development, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Olmert will start their twice-monthly meetings next week, mostly likely Sunday, a Palestinian official said Tuesday afternoon.
The two leaders had promised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month they would hold talks every two weeks.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the first of these meetings would most likely take place Sunday. On Monday, Abbas leaves for a 10-day trip to Europe.
Olmert's office had no immediate comment.