Ministers Shimon Peres, Amir Peretz, Sha'ul Mofaz and others agree that there is no reason not to free terrorist prisoners in honor of the upcoming Moslem holiday Id el-Adha and thus strengthen Abu Mazen. The Palestinian Authority chairman faces tough opposition from Hamas within the PA.
IDF Corp. Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas just outside Gaza six months ago; two soldiers were killed in the attack, in which eight terrorists tunneled under the Gaza fence.
For the last several months, Olmert has been adamant that he would not free any prisoners until Gilad Shalit is released first.
Shortly after Shalit's capture, Olmert gave orders to prepare for an invasion into Gaza to secure the soldier's release, and said he would not conduct negotiations with Hamas on the issue. Just two days after the kidnapping, he said that "time is running out" before he gives the go-ahead for the military action.
Olmert met with PA Chairman Abu Mazen on Saturday night, and the new policy is thought to be a direct outgrowth thereof.
Rumors of a prisoner exchange deal involving 1,400 terrorist prisoners for Shalit have been floating for many weeks. The reports stated that the main obstacle was Olmert's refusal to free the terrorists before Shalit's capture. With the removal of this obstacle, the way appears to be paved for the trade of Shalit for the 1,400 terrorists.