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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hope springs eternal: Palestinian sources: Deal for Shalit release closer than ever

A cynical humor section of the newspaper "Maariv" is called "Simanei Neft" - traces of oil. That is because Israelis became inured to numerous reports of "traces of oil" found in various drilling attempts over the years, that have always made headlines.
The release of Gilad Shalit, like the discovery of petroleum deposits, the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom of Prester John, is becoming the subject of perennial unfounded optimism.

Last update - 12:11 10/02/2007   

Palestinian sources: Deal for Shalit release closer than ever
By Avi Issacharoff and Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondents

Palestinian parliament member and Hamas official Fathi Hamad said Friday that a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas is nearing finalization, the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam reported on Saturday.
Hamad was quoted as saying that "in the negotiations through indirect channels between Hamas and Israel, the greatest progress yet has been made."
The forming of a Palestinian unity government in line with the Mecca Accord signed on Thursday by Fatah and Hamas, may bring for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, senior security sources said Friday.
The defense establishment believes that Shalit's release would allow Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a substantial return for the concessions Hamas coerced out of Fatah, without Hamas yielding to Fatah's additional demands. According to the sources, Hamas believes that international responses over Shalit's release would deflect the attention away from Hamas' rigid diplomatic stance.
The security sources warned nevertheless that tough negotiations await Israel before Shalit is released. The number of Palestinian prisoners, the severity of the charges for which they've been incarcerated and their political affiliation are expected to continue forming the major stumbling blocks in negotiations, the sources said.
Last month, the former Shin Bet security service deputy chief Ofer Dekel told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee that the deal for releasing Shalit is not expected to reach completion before March.
The security sources said also that several times the talks were on the verge of completion but the hopes for concluding the deal never materialized.
The defense establishment is also skeptical about the positive bearing the release of Gilad Shalit would have on the release of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, abducted by Hezbollah last July.

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