Sunday, December 20, 2009

The moment of decision has arrived - Inner cabinet to convene for third time to discuss Schalit deal

The inner cabinet was set to convene for the third time on Sunday evening immediately after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Jerusalem.

The forum was summonsed on short notice for an early morning meeting on Sunday, and then met again immediately after the weekly cabinet meeting in the afternoon.

On Sunday night, the government confirmed widespread speculation that the forum was conducting critical discussions regarding a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

The inner cabinet includes Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor, Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon and Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Aviva and Noam Schalit, parents of the captive soldier, arrived at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Sunday to deliver a letter urging Netanyahu to step up efforts to secure their son's release.

"We are turning to you in a last minute cry for help - please save our son, please save Gilad," the Schalits wrote in the letter.

"Our hearts tell us that the negotiations have reached a point of no return ... We are at a crossroads that has only two possible outcomes - the rescue of Gilad Schalit and his safe return home, or leaving of his fate to the hands of Hamas," the letter read.

Another portion of the letter pleaded with the prime minister to not "drop all of the problems of the Middle East onto our son's narrow shoulders."