PM rejects Egyptian cease-fire draft

Olmert: Agreement must deal with smuggling, Schalit; Suleiman opposed to Israeli stipulations.

Noam Schalit 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Noam Schalit 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel will not endorse the Egyptian draft of a cease-fire agreement with Hamas in its current form, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during a meeting between the two on Monday. Olmert told Suleiman that any agreement must deal with stopping arms smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip and the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. But the Egyptian official opposed these demands, saying later that "calm is the basis for negotiations over Gilad Schalit." While meeting with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, Suleiman said he would also demand that Hamas stop smuggling activities as part of its cessation of attacks on Israel. Earlier, in a meeting with the Egyptian official, Defense Minister Ehud Barak asserted that "Israel considers the release of Gilad Schalit a central component of stabilizing the situation in the Gaza Strip." Barak maintained that the IDF would be forced to launch an intensive operation in the Strip if Kassam rocket fire on western Negev towns did not cease. "We cannot show restraint over continued terror activity in Gaza," he said. Negotiations for the release of captured IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit have been at a standstill for months, officials told Army Radio Monday, adding that the cease-fire agreement with Hamas that is being brokered by the Egyptians is "an opportunity" to further the cause of Schalit's homecoming. Ofer Dekel, the official assigned by the PMO to handle the Schalit issue, wrote a letter Monday to Olmert and Barak in which he said that Israel should seize the opportunity to promote Schalit's release. According to Dekel, failure to include Schalit in the cease-fire agreement would in effect mean that Israel was giving up on him. He emphasized, however, that Schalit's release should not be a condition to continuing talks with Hamas. "I will support the release of Hamas murderers if it precipitates the release of Gilad Schalit," Transportation minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday. Mofaz, who was speaking to Army Radio, refused to say whether he would vote in favor of an agreement with Hamas in the cabinet if such a deal did not provide for the release of the captured IDF soldier. Meanwhile, Schalit's father Noam said that "Officials in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) should examine their bearing since the abduction." According to Schalit, "Maybe they can explain why the entire system, headed by [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert has not succeeded in returning Gilad." Schalit said that he does not believe that Israel will reach a cease-fire agreement with Hamas that does not include the release of his son. He told Israel Radio that he was satisfied with the fact that Israeli officials were expressing a similar sentiment. Earlier, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that Israel should not pass up the opportunity to include Schalit in the agreement with Hamas. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, however, opined that "Schalit's release must not be fig leaf [to cover] the shameful and dangerous surrender agreement that is being signed with Hamas. Capitulating to Hamas violence and extortion in removing the siege of Gaza will lead to Hamas becoming stronger [and will result in] additional kidnappings in the future."