Monday, November 23, 2009

Netanyahu: No Shalit deal yet; deal will require cabinet's approval

(Ynet).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to address recent reports indicating progress on a prisoner swap with Hamas that would see captive soldier Gilad Shalit returned to Israel, saying a deal with the Islamist group has yet to be finalized.

During a Likud faction meeting on Monday, the PM said any prisoner exchange agreement would have to be approved by cabinet.

"I cannot say yet whether a deal will in fact be struck. It is not only up to us. There is hesitancy on the part of the other side as well," he said.

"It is still unclear what will happen – what will be offered and to what we will agree to."

During the meeting, Netanyahu spoke of the dilemma Israel is facing. "On the one hand, we want to look after our soldiers and bring them back home - a value that our nation and Jewish tradition hold in the highest regard - but on the other hand we want to avoid future kidnappings."

The Prime Minister's Office announced earlier that some of the recent reports regarding a prisoner exchange deal for Shalit's release "are not credible and some of them are even intentionally distorted."

Recent days have seen a number of various reports of progress in talks for a deal, and following the meeting held between the soldier's parents and negotiator Hagai Hadas, Netanyahu's office wished to stress that most of the information being circulated is baseless and unconfirmed.

"Many details coming from abroad and in foreign media are being published lately, but they are not credible and some of them are even intentionally distorted. Efforts to secure Gilad Shalit's release are continuously underway, out of the media's view, and we have no intentions of commenting beyond that," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.