Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Netanyahu: Prisoner Swap Is Not Certain; if and when, details will be made public

(NYT). Amid reports that Israel and the Islamist group Hamas appear to be nearing a deal to exchange a captured Israeli soldier for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought on Tuesday to dampen speculation about a swap — either how close it was or whether it would happen at all.

“There is still no deal, and I do not known if there will be one,” he said. Addressing the fears of some Israelis that a swap would boost the standing of Hamas, Mr. Netanyahu said the authorities would “not be sparing with a public discussion. We will not do it as a fait accomplish,” news reports said.

"If and when a deal becomes apparent, [we won't make any backroom deal]. The decision will be brought to the government for it to decide."

He was speaking after the Industry and Trade Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said a deal was “moving toward completion in the very near future.”

Expectations of a swap in the coming week, a move with far-reaching implications not only for stalled Middle East peace talks but for a range of regional relations, have been raised by a round of meetings in Cairo sponsored by the Egyptian government, and by a growing number of statements by Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials.

“Those who don’t know can talk,” Dan Meridor, Israel’s intelligence minister, said Monday on state radio. “Those who know should keep silent.”