PM gives Schalit file to Mossad retiree

Hagai Hadas to be assisted by team of ministers, MKs after Meridor rejects offer to replace Ofer Dekel.

hagai hadas 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
hagai hadas 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu selected former senior Mossad official Hagai Hadas Sunday as his special envoy to Hamas-Egypt talks on the release of captive IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Hadas's appointment puts to rest media speculation over who would replace the last representative, Ofer Dekel, who was appointed by former prime minister Ehud Olmert in August 2006. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the government was also establishing a special public committee to assist and oversee the new negotiator's work. The committee, which will be chaired by the prime minister, includes Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled and Kadima MK Yisrael Hasson. Its six members represent all major coalition partners and the opposition. "Schalit is not a political issue," a Prime Minister's Office source said of the committee. The panel also contains a high concentration of security expertise, with two former IDF chiefs of staff (Barak and Ya'alon), a former IDF OC Central Command (Peled) and a former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) deputy head (Hasson). Hadas, 56, is one of the country's most experienced intelligence figures, having served for decades in senior operational roles in the Mossad. He retired from one of the agency's top posts in 2006 and founded an Internet start-up company. Mossad chief Meir Dagan was reportedly opposed to the appointment. Hadas left the Mossad in 2006 after clashes with Dagan. The prime minister's decision ended a week of discussions in the Prime Minister's Office over who would replace Dekel. Netanyahu first considered Meridor for the job, but Meridor turned him down over the weekend, reportedly because he discovered he would not be empowered to make final decisions on a possible prisoner-exchange deal. Meridor has declined to comment on these reports. Netanyahu had also considered Hasson for the job. The Damascus-born, Arabic-speaking Hasson has close ties with Egyptian intelligence. A spokesman for Hasson also refused to comment on the reports. Both Hasson and Meridor will have special roles assisting the work of Hadas, a Prime Minister's Office source said.