Israel-Hamas Prisoner Swap Deal: German Brokered Talks Headed for Failure
A Berlin-brokered deal to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped and held captive since June 2006 in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, appears to be collapsing. SPIEGEL sources have confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shocked by the scope of concessions, has withdrawn his support for the terms of the deal.
German-brokered negotiations on a prisoner swap between Israel and the radical Palestinian group Hamas are said to be close to collapse, due to the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, shortly before Christmas Netanyhu surprisingly withdrew his agreement on a deal that had already been struck and instead presented a new "final offer" to the Palestinians, with markedly poorer conditions.
Quarrel With Chief Negotiator
At issue is the question of which Palestinians will be released and where they will be sent to. The newest offer from Israel rejects many of the Palestinian demands. In particular, Netanyahu does not want to release any popular Hamas activists.
The Germans are now assuming that the Islamists, who have ruled Gaza since pushing out the rival Palestinian organization Fatah in 2007, will reject the latest Israeli offer. However, Hamas has still not made its final decision known.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu's about-face is being blamed on a quarrel with his chief negotiator, Hagai Hadas. Netanyahu allowed Hadas to negotiate with Hamas and the BND for months, without worrying about the details of the deal. Once he was presented with the agreement he was shocked by its implications. He is reported to have said internally that the concessions went too far.
The back and forth on the prisoner swap has dealt a blow to the BND's reputation. Hamas has criticized the German negotiators, saying they are no longer neutral and accusing them of having made too many concessions to the Israeli government.
smd/SPIEGEL and wire reports
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