Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked former U.S. President Bill Clinton to talk with Hamas terrorist leaders in an effort to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, an unidentified Arab source told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency.
Hamas had denied that anyone in the office of the former president has contacted its leaders.
Ma'an reported that Clinton was supposed to meet with Hamas officials and try to finalize a deal to swap approximately 1,000 terrorists and prisoners, including those serving life terms for murdering Israelis, without allowing murderers to return to Judea and Samaria, in exchange for the safe return of Shalit, whose condition is not known.
He is presumed to be physically well, without any clues concerning his psychological condition. Hamas previously has sent an audio of the soldier that Israeli intelligence experts said was clearly dictated to him under pressure. He has been in captivity for more than four years, and Hamas has refused him any contact with the outside world.
Negotiations for Shalit have been stalled for more than a year, following the terrorist organization’s rejection of Israel’s insistence that 10 “heavy-duty” terrorists be deported outside Judea and Samaria.
Israeli intelligence officials also have warned that freeing the terrorists would spark a wave of further kidnapping attempts to win more concessions from Israel.
Shalit’s parents previously pleaded with the Netanyahu government to relax the partial embargo on Hamas-controlled Gaza until their son was released. After the government opened up the Gaza crossings for more aid to Hamas without conditioning the move on the soldier’s freedom, the Shalit family returned to its former campaign strategy of demanding that Israel agree to “any price” to bring their son home.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he brought up the issue of Shalit with U.S. President Barack Obama when they met in the White House last week, but he made no mention of Clinton.