A list of Palestinian prisoners Israel would be willing to release in exchange for Cpl. Gilad Schalit transferred to Egypt last week consists of several hundred mid-level Hamas operatives currently in Israeli prisons, defense officials revealed on Monday. Meanwhile Monday, Labor MK Ephraim Sneh (read his JPost blog) met with jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti in Barghouti's jail cell at Hadarim Prison. The two held a two-hour discussion about regional developments and the ramifications of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Sneh, who stepped down as deputy defense minister last week, said he was in favor of Barghouti's release as a way of assisting Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "His contribution to improving the situation on the ground by far exceeds the judicial arguments for keeping him in prison," Sneh told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting.
Opinion: Yes - exchange the terrorists for Schalit
Defense officials said, however, that Barghouti's name did not appear on the list given to Egypt and that Israel did not plan to release him in a prisoner swap for Schalit.
On Monday, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Ofer Dekel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's representative in prisoner exchange negotiations, visited Cairo last week and presented the Egyptians with the list of prisoners Israel was willing to release.
However, according to the source, Hamas opposed the offer because there were no Popular Resistance Committees members on the list. Hamas argued that the PRC had also participated in Schalit's capture.
Officials on Monday confirmed the report but said that the list did not include high-profile prisoners like Barghouti or members of the jailed Hamas leadership from the West Bank.
Negotiations for Schalit's release, the officials said Monday, had been frozen since Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, when the Egyptian security coordinator there fled back to Cairo. The Egyptian embassy in Gaza also moved its offices to Ramallah.
"Since the Egyptians left there is not much happening on the ground," an Israeli official said Monday. "The Egyptians are trying to continue mediating between Israel and Hamas from Cairo, but it's not as effective as being on the ground in Gaza."