PM envoy: Tape evinces Hamas's cruelty

Yishai: 'Maybe we should talk to Hamas; recording sparks flurry of responses.

eli yishai looking sharp (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
eli yishai looking sharp
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government's policy regarding negotiations with Hamas will not change, despite a call by Knesset members from across the political spectrum Monday to secure the freedom of Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Following the release of an audio tape purportedly from Schalit, who was kidnapped one year ago from his post outside the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the government was doing all it could to get back its kidnapped soldiers, but would not negotiate with Hamas. "There is no change in Israel's policy regarding Hamas. Hamas is not a partner," said an official close to Olmert. The tape is "another example of Hamas's cruelty," the official said.
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  • Human rights group: Schalit captivity a war crime Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni issued a similar statement, condemning Hamas for using Schalit's suffering to further their own agenda. Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik added that Israel would work endlessly for the soldier's release. Dozens of MKs, including several from right-wing parties, issued calls for the government to change its policy regarding Hamas to negotiate for Schalit's release. Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai on Monday called on the government to examine the possibility of direct negotiations with Schalit's captors. "The unstable situation in the Palestinian Authority leaves us no choice but to thoroughly examine the option of direct negotiations … even with Hamas," said Yishai (Shas). In the past Israel has negotiated with enemy states through back channels in order to secure certain objectives, Yishai said. Defense Minister Ehud Barak also commented on the tape, calling it a clear message from Hamas to Israel that the group was now in complete control of Schalit's fate. "Schalit's tape is Hamas's way of saying the organization is the one determining Schalit's fate, and not other sources," said Barak at a Labor Faction meeting Monday. "Hamas is saying that Israel does not need to talk with Egypt or any other parties. If we want Schalit back we need to go to them." Meretz MKs Ran Cohen and Zehava Gal-On also called on Olmert to immediately renew negotiations over the release of Palestinians prisoners in exchange for the captured soldier. "We must not allow Schalit to become the second Ron Arad, even at the price of releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners," said Cohen. Labor MKs Danny Yatom, a former Mossad chief, and Eitan Cabel also called on the government to conduct negotiations. "The Israeli government must keep doing everything it can to free Gilad Schalit. We clearly have no choice but to talk with our enemies," said Cabel. Meanwhile, MKs from the NU-NRP party were the only opposition party to issue statements calling on the government to continue its stance on Hamas. MK Uri Ariel expressed skepticism regarding Hamas's goals. "Hamas has no intention of releasing anyone - only to receive recognition as a legitimate political entity," said MK Uri Ariel. NU-NRP MKs Yitzhak Levi and Benny Elon seconded him, calling on the prime minister not to "capitulate" to the demands of the abductors and Hamas.