Olmert Not Optimistic about Shalit

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Sunday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was not optimistic about the fate of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

"Unfortunately, I cannot share the optimism regarding [Corporal] Gilad Shalit," Olmert told conference participants.

On Monday morning, Army Radio reported that Israel has reached an agreement with Hamas on the names of 230 Palestinian prisoners to be exchanged for Shalit.

According to the report, the "breakthrough" came after a special ministerial committee blurred the lines defining prisoners with "blood on their hands," quadrupling the original 44 prisoners Israel agreed to release to 230.

In addition to the list approved by Hamas, the Gaza-based terror organization demanded an additional 120 men in the first stage of the prisoner exchange.

Meanwhile, Shin Bet (General Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin opposes relaxing the criteria for prisoners with "blood on their hands," calling the plan a prescription for "blackmail that will lead to additional abductions."

Diskin's objections were heightened when the ministerial committee, under Vice Premier Haim Ramon's chairmanship, included prisoners with "blood on their hands."

On Monday, a senior Hamas official told YNet news service a different story. He said there had been no breakthrough in negotiations for a prisoner exchange.

"The Palestinians are waiting for an Israeli confirmation on the identity and number of the prisoners who will be released, and we want to know how Israel will implement its part of the agreement," the Hamas official said.

"The Palestinians are demanding guarantees on the way Israel plans to implement its part in the hostage exchange agreement," he said.

"The second part of the deal will begin with Shalit making his way to Egypt. If he reaches Egypt and Israel decides to violate its commitment, will someone be able to guarantee this will not happen? This is why we demand clarifications regarding the guarantees as well," he said.

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped on June 25, 2006, in a cross-border attack on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing at the border with the Gaza Strip. Two IDF soldiers were killed, three wounded and Shalit abducted in the raid.

Efforts to secure his release, mediated by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, have so far come up empty.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news service

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