Grieved parents block implementation of Gaza truce

Monday, June 23, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

The parents of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Monday managed to at least temporarily block full implementation of a truce agreement between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Shalit family petitioned Israel's Supreme Court to forbid the government from moving to the next stage of the four-day-old truce, which includes opening the Gaza border crossings and ending a limited economic embargo, unless their son is first released.

Representatives for the family argued that the border crossings were the last bargaining chip Israel had with which to pressure Hamas to free Shalit. The family says the government already went back on its promise to make their son's freedom a condition of the overall ceasefire.

The court ruled that the government must keep the Gaza crossings closed for now, until it can offer an acceptable explanation to the Shalit family. Defense Ministry officials complained that the court should have no say over real-time political and security decisions.

Meanwhile, former Israeli army chief Moshe Yaalon told an academic conference in northern Israel that he believed the price Hamas was demanding for Shalit was too high for Israel to pay.

Said Yaalon: "In some situations, the price to pay as part of a deal is much heavier than the price of losing the captive soldier."

Hamas wants Israel to free 350 jailed Palestinian terrorists in exchange for Shalit's freedom. Israel has agreed to the number, but is still haggling with Hamas over the identities of those to be freed. In particular, Israel has a problem with about 100 of the names on the Hamas list, noting that they are some of the most hardened terrorists currently imprisoned by Israel, and that they have between them killed hundreds and wounded thousands of Israelis.

In related news, Israeli media reported on Monday that a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia had been delayed, despite reports last week that a swap was only days away.

Israel and Hizballah had been close to a deal that would have seen the return of two abducted Israeli reserve soldiers in exchange for a Lebanese terrorist who has since his 1979 capture obtained celebrity status in Lebanon, as well as four Hizballah fighters captured in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

But at the last minute, the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Hizballah had resurrected a demand that Israel also free hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners, a demand that Israel could not meet.

Hours later, Israel Radio reported that the Olmert government was considering declaring the two reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, as killed in action on the strength of forensics evidence that showed they were both badly wounded during the July 2006 cross-border raid in which they were kidnapped.

A Goldwasser family member told The Jerusalem Post that the reports of new demands from Hizballah were untrue, and that the government was for some reason trying to scuttle the deal.

It was earlier reported that Olmert was worried about his cabinet's reaction to the original deal, and that with his political future already in question, he was inclined to break off the German-mediated negotiations with Hizballah.

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