Haaretz published a report today claiming that Israel is responsible for holding up the release of kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit:
Gaza source: Israel delaying deal for Shalit
The source, who is located in the Gaza Strip, said Israel and Hamas have agreed on the principle of exchanging Shalit for Palestinian prisoners, but that the two parties have not yet decided the exact nature of the deal or how it will be carried out.
He said the kidnappers, with whom he is in contact, have made realistic demands. The source would not say how many prisoners Hamas is demanding in the swap, but he did say the number is not in the thousands, as had previously been stated.
“Moreover, Hamas has not completely rejected the Egyptian proposal that Shalit first be transferred to the Egyptians, after which Israel will free prisoners,” the source said. “The problem is that the Egyptian mediation team has no response from Israel, like as to when the prisoners would be released, how many and what type. Only with these responses will the mediators be able to offer something to the kidnappers. But Israel is not clarifying its positions. It is not taking any initiative that indicates its desire to complete the deal. There is no sign of readiness, there are no messages via Israel’s overt channels, and the problem is there are no messages even via the covert channels.”
It is hard to read into these blasted unnamed sources used by Israeli publications, but it would appear to me that the source must be from Hamas or from someone very close to Hamas. It would also appear that Olmert’s government has been so crippled by the Lebanon war that it cannot make any significant policy decision such as agreeing to a prisoner swap to liberate one of Israel’s most important detainees. Olmert of course denies this:
The Prime Minister’s Office said the charges are incorrect, and would not discuss the talks taking place. Israel would not conduct negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of prisoners, and the country is using all means to bring home the abducted soldiers, it said.
If Olmert won’t negotiate with Hamas then he isn’t “using all means to bring home” Shalit, now is he? And if the charges are incorrect and Israel isn’t stalling–then why hasn’t Shalit been freed? It seems clear that there is some merit, and perhaps a good deal of merit, to the charge against Israel. When will it get off its duff and get this thing done?
My guess is that Olmert is petrified at the threat from his right regarding the failure of the war. He is afraid that by releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit that he will leave himself open to a frontal attack from the Netanyahu types. And this is true. They will go after him. But if it were Sharon he would laugh in their faces and dare them to land a blow on his reputation. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a far more fragile political figure than Sharon. And it seems a shame that a young soldier’s fate is held hostage not only to Hamas, but also to Ehud Olmert’s perhaps waning political career.