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'Shalit Deal' German Mediator Warns of Losing Another Opportunity

'Shalit Deal' German Mediator Warns of Losing Another Opportunity

Saturday, 25 September, 2021 - 11:15
An Israeli flag next to the gate of Megiddo Prison (Reuters)

Former German top foreign intelligence officer of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Gerhard Conrad, revealed that he had reached a good agreement for the Shalit deal between the Israeli government and Hamas in 2009. However, the former Israeli Premier canceled at the last moment and agreed to a different deal with worse terms.

Conrad's statements came at a time as the new deal between Hamas and Israel is facing great difficulties.

Hamas demands that Palestinian women and children be released in exchange for giving Israel information on the condition of its prisoners. It later demanded the release of 1,100 prisoners, including all life-sentence prisoners, and the six prisoners who managed to escape Gilboa high-security jail and were re-arrested.

Israel wants to release a small number of prisoners and refuses to release prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment.

In a lengthy interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Conrad revealed some secrets of the negotiations he conducted between Israel and Hezbollah and Syria and between Israel and Hamas.

He explained that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a deal between Hamas and his representative Hagai Hadas.

Conrad described the 70 rounds of negotiations between the two parties as "difficult" and lacking trust, adding that there were many times when they felt that everything they established was collapsing.

But in the end, the two sides reached an agreement to release Gilad Shalit in exchange for Israel releasing 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The deal was awaiting the final approval of the political leadership, but Netanyahu retracted it.

Conrad said that Netanyahu agreed to a worse deal in 2011, and the number of released prisoners increased to 1,050. The second deal also included names that Israel had not arranged at the time.

The official believes that Netanyahu changed his position after a popular uprising erupted against him in light of deteriorating social and economic conditions, among other reasons.

Notably, several reports cited a "senior Israeli official" saying there is a unique and rare opportunity to reach a prisoner exchange deal with the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's Channel 13 reported that the deal with Hamas stipulates that the Israeli army will recover the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, in addition to the civilians detained by Hamas, namely Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, but there is a dispute about the level and number of Palestinian prisoners whom Israel will release.

Many fear that this process will be abruptly canceled, and this is why they see Conrad's statements as a warning to the Israelis.

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