Livni slams Shalit prisoner exchange


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni criticized the prisoner swap that freed Gilad Shalit, saying it weakened Israel and strengthened Hamas.

In an interview Sunday on Israel Radio, Livni asserted that the next phase of the deal, in which 550 Palestinian prisoners are to be released, should be coordinated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority extends over the West Bank.

Livni, who heads the Kadima Party, also called for the peace process to be restarted, saying the prisoner swap creates a unique opportunity to launch new talks.

Some 477 Palestinian prisoners from Gaza and the West Bank were released last week in exchange for Shalit in a deal reached between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and held the Israeli soldier there for more than five years.

Livni was Israel’s foreign affairs minister when Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid in June 2006. A Kadima-led government reportedly negotiated a similar deal that did not come to fruition.

Over the weekend, Shalit visited the beach with his father.

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