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Cabinet session on Shalit deal is postponed

Noam Shalit, right, with an unidentified family friend outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office in Jerusalem on March 17, 2009. (Brian Hendler)

Noam Shalit, right, with an unidentified family friend outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office in Jerusalem on March 17, 2009. (Brian Hendler)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert postponed a special Cabinet meeting that could include approving a deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

At the meeting, scheduled for Monday but now pushed off to Tuesday, the Cabinet will approve a deal or be updated on any progress in talks to free Shalit ahead of the establishment of the new government, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Late Saturday, Security Agency Director Yuval Diskin and his special envoy, Ofer Dekel, arrived in Cairo in an attempt to reach an agreement. They had been scheduled to return to Israel Sunday night but remained in the Egyptian capital to negotiations into Monday. The fact that they are remaining in Cairo is not an indication of what kind of progress is being made, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. 

Hamas, which is said to be holding Shalit in Gaza, is demanding the release of more than 400 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, including some who killed Israelis. Israel wants some of the prisoners, most of whom are from the West Bank, to be exiled to the Gaza Strip or to third countries, according to reports.

Shalit was captured in a May 2006 cross-border raid while on patrol duty.

Before the start of Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting, expected to be the last of this government, Olmert said: "Over the past three years, we have made unceasing, I would say considerable, wide-ranging and complex efforts on various channels, some of them hidden, most of which were known to two or three people only, this in order to protect the effort being done in order to bring about an agreement that will lead to Gilad Shalit’s release.

"All of these channels operated intensively in various places and contexts. The result as of today is that Hamas’ position has been far beyond than what even the most moderate of those who have been constantly pushing and pressing to reach a far-reaching agreement with Hamas would have been prepared to accept."
 

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