Shimon Peres always has been a kidder. I don’t know whether I’d give more than a penny’s worth of credence to this claim from him, but it’s interesting nonetheless:
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, speaking Tuesday amid reports of an imminent prisoner exchange deal for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, said that once Shalit were freed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would invite Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for talks based on the road map peace plan.
Abbas said in remarks published on Tuesday morning that progress had been made toward a prisoner exchange deal for the eventual release of Shalit…
In an interview with the Bahrain-based Bahrain-based Akhbar Al Halij newspaper, Abbas said that a possible deal would be based on an arrangement under which Egypt would accept Shalit as a “deposit,” after which the number of Palestinians to be released in return for his freedom would be made public.
Peres, asked if Olmert would soon invite Abbas for the first talks between the two leaders, Peres told Army Radio, “The moment that this matter is solved, the matter of our captive soldiers, and I hope it will be solved, that is what will happen.”
Just when you thought the Road Map was dead and buried, here the Israelis go and resurrect it again–or at least they claim they’re resurrecting it. Interesting, convergence is dead. The Lebanon war failed. The Gaza war has failed. So I guess they have to figure out something else they can latch onto that’s associated with peace. And that would be the Road Map.
Only problem is the Quartet, which came up with the concept has disbanded because it’d become a laughingstock. The Quartet’s representative on the ground, James Wolfensohn, quit in disgust because he received no support from the Bush Administration and specifically Condi Rice. Nor did he get much respect from the Israelis. So I guess I don’t know what the hell Peres is talking about.
All of which makes me doubt Peres claim that “this is what will happen.” But I’d welcome such a meeting if it did happen.
Al Hayyat, which seems to have an inside track on reporting what’s going on regarding Shalit, poses the strange claim that Gilad Shalit already is in Egypt, where he’s been ‘for some time’:
The London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported Tuesday that Shalit may have been taken from the Gaza Strip to Egypt, Army Radio said.
The report, based on unnamed Arab sources, said that Shalit has been held in Cairo for some time, awaiting the results of negotiations for his release.
I can’t recall a nation ever accepting a kidnapped soldier of another nation and holding him till the ransom payment is worked out on behalf of a third party. I must say that this is odd statecraft. I wonder if possibly Israel has tacitly agreed to this scenario. Otherwise, Egypt could get itself into some very hot water by violating a few international laws in doing what it is (or may be) doing–if Al Hayyat is correct.
The NY Times reports another interesting bit of news regarding the two IDF hostages held by Hezbollah:
Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday that the United Nations would mediate talks on the release of Israeli and Hezbollah prisoners…
Mr. Annan said that he had chosen his representative to act as mediator, that Israel had chosen its representative, and that what he called “Lebanon Hezbollah” was in the process of selecting someone.
Mr. Annan said the talks would be conducted discreetly, with the goal of setting up the “mechanism” to effect the release of prisoners from both sides, which he said he hoped would be the first step in more thorough-going talks involving Israel and Lebanon. He also said he would insist on control of the negotiations and no interference from outside.
“Everywhere you go, you hear rumors that this country is doing it, or the other,” he said. “If I’m going to take it on, my mediator should be the sole mediator.” He added, “If others get in, we will pull out.”
Yet another interesting development in Israel’s often shaky relationship with the UN. With Israel’s acceptance of an expanded UNIFIL peacekeeping force to maintain the Lebanon ceasefire; and with this new UN role in freeing its prisoners, one could say that Israel and the UN were in the middle of a veritable love fest compared to past hatreds. Let us hope that the UN succeeds in its efforts and the relationship improves on a permanent basis.