Netanyahu to Hold Knesset Debate on Shalit Swap, Says Reports Are Misleading


netanyahuIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged today nto hold a discussion in the Knesset on the terms of a deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, amid reports that Hamas was set to free the abducted Israeli soldier within days.

“There will be a public discussion and there will be a discussion in the Knesset on the matter, which requires the government’s approval,” Netanyahu told Likud lawmakers today.

Netanyahu also sought to lower hopes that the was imminent, warning that a number of media reports on the matter were intentionally misleading.

“During the recent period, many pieces of information originating abroad and in the foreign media have been published; they are unauthorized, and some of them are intentionally false,” the prime mininster’s bureau said in a statement.

The prime minister’s comments came as Hamas delegates were in Cairo to debate the final prisoner list presented by Israel for an exchange that would see Shalit freed after more than three years in captivity.

The statement by Netanyahu’s bureau continued: “The efforts over Shalit’s release are continuing all the time, away from media’s gaze, and [Netanyahu] has no intention of referring to the subject further.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, spoke today of the necessity to do everything possible to bring about the release of the soldier, who was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.

“We are indebted to Gilad Shalit, who was abducted while on duty protecting the country in Gaza,” said Barak in a statement. “The times are too sensitive for discussions. We need to be on our guard and prepared to make any necessary move to bring Gilad back home.

“For most of us, who once wore uniforms and are now part of the defense establishment, this as a profound commitment, on a military and moral level, which goes beyond the common humane commitment shared by every citizen.”

Earlier today, Shalit’s parents and brother met with the prime minister’s special negotiator, after Hamas declaration that a prisoner swap deal for the soldier’s release could be sealed by next week.

The Shalits met with Hagai Hadas in Tel Aviv in the morning and were scheduled to hold talks later with several cabinet ministers in Yerushalayim.

“We can’t say anything at this stage, and there is nothing to add,” the soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, told reporters following the meeting. “We would be happy to include you in our joy, if that happens. I am still not reassured.”

A source involved in the meetings told Haaretz that the meetings with Hadas and the ministers were scheduled some time ago and had nothing to do with reported new developments.

As they entered the meeting with Hadas today, the family refused to answer questions from reporters, saying: “Now is not the time to talk.”

Hamas leaders have previously been very circumspect about reports of breakthroughs, but reports circulating of late have predicted an imminent deal.

Meanwhile, the leader of the group of Israeli activists working for Shalit’s release, Shimshon Liebman, told Haaretz that their silence over the past few days had not been coordinated with the prime minister’s bureau, censorship officials or because of any new information.

“At a time like this, when there are so many groundless rumors, we prefer to give space to those doing the work and not interfere,” Liebman said.

{Haaretz/Yair Israel}