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Monday, April 27, 2009

You don't say! Ofer Dekel: 'Prisoner swap protests weakened us'

This is really stating the obvious. What is more interesting, is what happened to the "free Shalit" lobby when the new Israeli government took over? Where are the protestors, the signs, the baby pictures of Gilad Shalit, the tent, the press conferences? Did it suddenly become less urgent to free Gilad Shalit?  

'Prisoner swap protests weakened us'

Apr. 27, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Public protests weakened Israel's position in negotiations with Hizbullah for captured IDF reservists Ehud Regev and Eldad Goldwasser, Ofer Dekel, the outgoing special negotiator on the captive issue said Monday.

"When the media and the public respond as they do, it weakens one's position," Dekel told Army Radio. "On the other hand though, there are other aspects - families, sensitivities and pain."

Dekel met the families of Regev and Golwasser in Sha'arei Tikva on Monday for the first time since the reservists' bodies were returned to Israel in a prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah in 2007.

Dekel said that the negotiating team always believed that direct contact with the captives' families would hinder the process, but he said he insisted that he knew about every demonstration.

"Warm relations is a natural instinct. We are human beings," he said. "My motto when I had contact with the families was always, 'I am not prepared to reveal anything via the media. Consult with me on any protests that you plan to hold so that we can do things together cleverly.'"

Dekel said that Hizbullah knew all along how to conduct serious negotiations, calling the terror group "despicable, but professional."

"There was never a case in which they didn't come to a meeting ready. Every word of theirs was carefully considered and planned. They knew about every protest rally here in Israel and used it for their benefit," he said.

Dekel, who had been leading Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, resigned last week and was temporarily replaced by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin.


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