Decision Sent to Mediator

After a difficult night, the "Forum of Seven" ministers sent its decision on a swap deal for hostage soldier Gilad Shalit to the German mediator.

Hana Levi Julian and Gil Ronen, | updated: 08:57

Aviva Shalit
Aviva Shalit
Israel news photo: Flash 90

After four hours of difficult talks that ended after midnight, the "Forum of Seven" cabinet of select ministers tasked with coming to a decision on whether to accept the latest prisoner swap offer from Hamas terrorists sent its response to the German mediator, Ernst Uhrlau.

The intense discussions had been conducted as the Shalit family and protestors for and against the proposed deal were picketing outside the Prime Minister's Office.

The ministers' response will be handed by Uhrlau to Hamas on Tuesday, according to an anonymous source close to the negotiations quoted by the Reuters news agency. It appears that Netanyahu has agreed to release the terrorist murderers demanded by Hamas - but not to Judea and Samaria. This negates a major condition of Hamas, leaving the ball in the terrorist organization's court.

The "Forum of Seven," led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), includes Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Our Home), Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor (Likud), Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor), Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon (Likud), and Minister Without Portfolio Dr. Binyamin Begin (Likud). The latter three have basically opposed the deal, leaving Netanyahu with the decisive vote.

Aviva Shalit, mother of the abducted soldier, told reporters Monday night that a vote not to accept the deal would be a death sentence for her son. Asked if he was optimistic after meeting with the Prime Minister, Shalit's father Noam said that he was “still not in an optimistic state, but not pessimistic either.”

The evening also saw a tense encounter outside the Prime Minister's Office between Netanyahu's brother-in-law, Dr. Hagi Ben-Artzi, and the Shalits. Ben-Artzi is vehemently opposed to the proposed deal and has repeatedly called on his brother-in-law to stand firm and refuse to release the terrorist murderers.

“We, too, want you to be strong,” Ben-Artzi told Noam Shalit, “but we will release Gilad in the next war.” When asked by Shalit when he thought that might be, Ben-Artzi replied, “In the next two to six months.”