Hamas to Olmert: Talk to Us for Fewer Prisoners

Hamas reportedly offered former PM Ehud Olmert to release fewer prisoners for Gilad Shalit in exchange for strategic dialogue.

Elad Benari,

Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Israel News Photo: Flash 90

A day after exposing the secret communications between Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2006, Channel 10 News revealed on Thursday the contents of an unofficial document Mashaal had passed on to Olmert.

This document states, “With the capture of Gilad Shalit, the two sides defined their main goals in terms of the release as follows: For Israel – the fastest possible release for the lowest possible price of prisoners to be released. For Hamas - the ability and desire to have effective control are more important than the number of prisoners to be released.”

The document goes on to detail Mashaal’s two-track proposal. One track would only involve a deal for Shalit's release in exchange for about 1000 prisoners. A second track would involve Israel and Hamas entering a strategic dialogue. If Israel agrees, the number of prisoners released for Shalit would not even be in the hundreds.

The second track would also have Israel agreeing to stop targeted killings of Hamas terrorists and Hamas in returned would stop terror activities. Hamas would also publicly express its commitment to cease all armed activity from Gaza, while Israel would commit to transfer taxes to the PA and to the release of the prisoners.

Hamas's vision, according to the document presented in the report, included a framework for co-existence with Israel for 25 years, characterized by non-violence and a commitment to begin a process to achieve Palestinian statehood through negotiations on borders, based on the pre-1967 lines.

Channel 10 said that Hamas also agreed to postpone discussions of issues such as the Arab refugees and Jerusalem to a future date. “Hamas is ready to reach the most difficult decisions, provided that Israel is ready as well,” the group wrote, according to the report.

There was no comment from Israel to Thursday’s report, but a spokesperson for Olmert had responded to the initial report on the secret communications that Olmert “was never approached by Khaled Mashaal, neither before nor after Shalit’s kidnapping. Not one official who worked with Olmert at the time, without exception, is aware of any dealing with Mashaal.”

Wednesday’s initial report said that Olmert had refused an offer which included the release of Shalit in exchange for the several dozen terrorist prisoners. The report also said that the secret negotiations with Mashaal were held by former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, through a contact from a Western country and two Israeli agents.

Olmert reportedly never shared the information on his communication channel with Hamas with anyone, including ministers, cabinet members, the Chief of Staff or the head of intelligence.

Shalit was released last October in a deal reached by the Netanyahu government. Israel agreed to release 1,026 terrorists in exchange for the kidnapped soldier.