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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Israeli envoy: Tel Aviv's new condition insulting

Wed, 18 Feb 2009 17:15:38 GMT | PressTV

Israel's top negotiator in
the peace talks
Amos Gilad
A senior Israeli defense official believes that the only way to bring the captive soldier back home is fulfilling Hamas conditions.

Israel's top negotiator in talks with Egypt on a Gaza truce, Amos Gilad, criticized Tel Aviv for linking Gaza truce to the release of Gilad Shait, saying the last moment condition disturbs the peace process.

He said that conditioning the opening of the border-crossings to Shalit's release may come at the expense of Egypt's support fro Israel.

"I don't understand what it is that they're trying to do. To insult the Egyptians? We've already insulted them. It's madness. It's simply madness. Egypt has remained almost our last ally here", Maariv daily quoted Gilad as telling a close associate.

Egypt, which has been mediating peace talks between Israel and Hamas following the deadly three-week-long war on Gaza, also believes that the issues should remain separate adding that Cairo would not change its stance on the truce.

Head of the Defense Ministry's military-political department made the Wednesday remarks as Israel's security cabinet were meeting over outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's new condition for any agreement with Hamas.

On Tuesday, Olmert said that Israel would open its border crossings with the Gaza Strip only after Hamas agrees to release Gilad Shalit -- captured by Palestinian fighters in a June 2006 cross-border raid.

Hamas, however, has rejected the condition, accusing Tel Aviv of backtracking on the terms of the proposed Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with the movement.

The Islamic movement has repeatedly said that it would release Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners whose names have been delivered to Israeli officials.

"Until now the prime minister hasn't involved himself at all. Suddenly, the order of things has been changed. Suddenly, first we have to get Gilad. I don't understand that. Where does that lead, to insult the Egyptians? To make them want to drop the whole thing? What do we stand to gain from that?" said the Israeli envoy to the Cairo talks.

Gilad also said that Tel Aviv's new condition may damage Israel's relations with Egypt, which is the regime's key ally in the region, contributing to the 19-month blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"(President Hosni) Mubarak has been fair and courageous, the Rafah border crossing is closed, Hamas is under siege. What are we thinking? That they work for us? That they're a subordinate unit of ours?" he warned.

"Who is going to deliver the goods except for the Egyptians? Qatar has already gone over to the other side, to Iran. Turkey is wavering. Look at what is happening in Jordan," Gilad said suggesting that Tel Aviv's wrong policies over the years have turned Israel into an isolated establishment.

"Don't we understand that we need our relations with these countries more than anything else? That is our national security in this region," the negotiator warned.

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