Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ministers Will 'Pay the Price'

Hana Levi Julian Ministers Will 'Pay the Price'

The government is likely to agree to "pay the price" set by Hamas terrorists for the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, according to Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit.

The minister told reporters prior to the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday morning that he was "willing to pay the price to bring [Shali home," even if that meant a two-step process, "so long as Gilad is released from Hamas hands in the first phase and passed to the Egyptians." Sheetrit said as he went into the meeting, "We must not make any agreement without including Shalit." The Kadima Interior Minister wasn't the only one who expressed his willingness to deal.

Shas party chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, also said "We mustn't make progress with the ceasefire without Gilad Shalit," echoing Sheetrit's words, "We will need to pay a heavy price for his return."

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, meanwhile, appeared to be setting the stage for public opinion to accept a cabinet decision on the matter, with an interview on Voice of Israel government radio prior to the cabinet meeting.

Dichter told listeners during the broadcast that the government is prepared to free numerous Palestinian Authority terrorists with "blood on their hands" in order to secure Shalit's return.

However, he was cautious in talking about terms for a deal that might include the top terrorists whose freedom has consistently been demanded by Hamas – Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, PFLP secretary-general Ahmed Sada'at, and Hamas bomb maker and terror mastermind Abdullah Barghouti.

Dichter sidestepped the question of whether Israel would actually agree to their release, instead saying carefully that it was unlikely that Israel would allow the senior terrorists to return to their homes in Judea, Samaria or Gaza.

For days, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been saying that Israel is unwilling to seal any Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Hamas terrorists if Shalit's return is not included as part of the deal.

On Saturday night, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement that bluntly said "Prime Minister Olmert's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a lull before Gilad Shalit's release."

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