Defense Minister Ehud Barak admitted on Sunday that Israel did not know the exact location in Gaza where Gilad Shalit was held by Hamas for more than five years.
“Gilad was in southern Gaza somewhere,” Barak told Israel’s Channel 10 News. “We still do not know the exact place and clearly we failed to find him. As a result we could not launch an operation to release him.”
He refused to say outright, however, that Israel’s failure to locate Shalit was a failure on the part of Israeli Intelligence.
“It’s not a success for our Intelligence, but we will study it and see. I do not think it would be right to declare it a failure right away,” he said.
Barak also responded to comments made Sunday by opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who expressed her criticism of the deal to release Shalit on Israeli radio, saying it strengthened Hamas.
“I do not think Hamas is stronger today,” he said. “Looking at reality, we had a window of opportunity and had we not acted, the day may have come when there would be no one with whom to speak. Hamas is celebrating and has a feeling of accomplishment, but I think we significantly strengthened the spirit of solidarity in Israel.”
Barak also referred to the Shamgar Committee, which was appointed to formulate a policy for dealing with potential soldier abductions. The committee is expected to set stricter guidelines which will limit the government’s options in such cases.
“I appointed the Shamgar Committee several years ago and we agreed not to publish their recommendations before Gilad came home so as not to have this discussion at his expense,” said Barak. “I have no doubt they will advise on different norms and processes that might place limitations on the current and plain method of negotiating.”
On Sunday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin recommended that Israel not set into law its terms for negotiating with terrorists.
Rivlin said that subjecting such terms to a law would limit the government’s ability to negotiate with terrorists, adding that the government should be able to use its judgment in dealing with such issues.