Netanyahu to Hamas: Shalit Deal Is Up To You


netanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told reporters today that Hamas is the main obstacle to a prisoner swap involving captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. “If Hamas wants a deal, then┬áit will happen,” said Netanyahu, who appeared at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Yerushalayim. “If it doesn’t want a deal, then there won’t be one.”

“The choice is in its hands,” the┬áNetanyahu said.

“We have a goal of bringing home Gilad Shalit alive and well, and to do this in a way that won’t enable terrorists to resume murderous acts,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier today, a senior Hamas official told the BBC that talks for Shalit had broken down. Mahmoud Zahar said it was Netanyahu’s personal intervention that caused “a big regression and retraction” in the negotiations.

The Israeli leader also repeated his call for the Palestinians to begin peace talks with Israel.

“I have expressed the government’s willingness to immediately enter into negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions,” the prime minister said. “When there’s a will, there’s a way.”

“We have the will and we also have the way to go forward toward peace,” Netanyahu said. “I hope that soon the heads of the Palestinian Authority will also be convinced to embark on the path of peace.”

The Italian premier said he will convey Israel’s desire to see a resumption of peace negotiations during his meetings with Palestinian officials on Wednesday.

“Italy will be happy to make available to the Palestinian Authority and Israel a location in the country for the purpose of renewing talks and to incur the expenses for the Palestinian delegation,” Berlusconi said. “You can trust us, we will do everything in order to give momentum for peace.”

When asked about Iran, Berlusconi responded: “Iran’s intention to utilize the nuclear option is something to which every country in the world needs to devote attention.”

“We will do everything so that there won’t be any indifference to this issue and to stop this plan,” the Italian premier said.

Netanyahu said Israel seeks peace with all its Arab neighbors, though Jerusalem “views with gravity” Syria’s continued armament of Hamas.

“We want peace with all of our neighbors, but to our sorrow Syria and Iran continue to supply Hamas with weapons,” the premier said. “We view with gravity Hamas’ activities in the Gaza Strip, which by a miracle has yet to result in loss of life in Israel, and we will respond to this accordingly.”

{Haaretz/Yair Israel}