Friday, February 20, 2009

Analysis: Why Has Israel Backtracked on Shalit Deal?

Haaretz, February 20, 2009 - Israel's behavior in the past few days in the discussions for the Shalit deal and the cease-fire agreement has put the Egyptian mediators off balance.

About 10 days ago, when senior defense official Amos Gilad traveled to Cairo, the Egyptians understood that the matter was nearly closed. The tahdiyeh [lull] is within reach, and in parallel, or approximately so, the abducted soldier would be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. The Egyptians had hoped to issue an official statement on a deal close to Election Day in Israel, but when that was not possible they assumed it would take a day or two more.

In the meantime, a week has gone by and Israel is reopening issues for discussion they in Cairo had thought were closed. Egyp
tian President Hosni Mubarak put things bluntly.

"Israel has withdrawn from its position," he said. "There was an agreement for a lull, and now the Israelis are going back a bit, but we are pressing them."

Shalit, Mubarak says, "is a different matter," and progress on it will commence only after an agreement is reached on the cease-fire.

The change during the weekend occurred on the Israeli side. It is not only the absolute linkage that Israel is making between opening the crossings into the Gaza Strip, central to the cease-fire agreement, and the release of Shalit, which was announced by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday. Israel is reconsidering entirely the whole question of a cease-fire....

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