Shalit Issue Tops Last Cabinet Meeting

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Kidnapped Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit topped the agenda at outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's last Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Outgoing Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Prison Service officials shared their conclusions on curtailing privileges for Palestinian prisoners in view of stalled talks with the Hamas terror group on a prisoner exchange for Shalit.

Shalit has been held captive since June 25, 2006, with no visitation rights whatsoever, even after repeated requests by the International Red Cross.

Friedmann and Prison Service representatives suggested curbing visitation rights, radio, television, telephone and newspaper privileges, as well as limiting the pursuit of academic degrees.

"Just because we're the only democracy in the Middle East doesn't mean we have to be the only suckers," Friedmann said. "We must not radiate weakness," he said.

Friedmann said that unlike Hamas, Israel would continue complying with international law, allowing visits by representatives of the International Red Cross as well as letters from family members.

"It is not reasonable that Shalit is living without seeing his parents while Hamas prisoners live here as if they were at summer camp," outgoing Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit KADIMA commented.

"There is an abundance of Hamas terrorists in Israeli jails who enjoy special conditions and special treatment while our soldier hasn't even been visited once to check his well-being," said Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog LABOR, who will remain in his position in the new government.

Abu Obaidah, spokesman for Hamas's military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, called the proposals "evidence of Israel's weakness, confusion and helplessness," similar to measures used by "gangsters, murderers and cowards," which would strengthen the terror group.

"The Zionist enemy won't be able to blackmail us through these crimes," Abu Obaidah said.

"This enemy appears to be so frustrated because of Hamas's strong resolve and refusal to succumb," the Hamas spokesman concluded.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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