Monday, August 15, 2011

New round of Shalit talks in Cairo

From YNet, in a story being widely reported in Arabic media:
A second round of indirect talks between Israeli and Hamas teams negotiating the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit has been scheduled to begin Monday in Cairo, the London-based al-Hayat has reported.

Accordnig to the report, the first round of talks, mediated by Egyptian officials, took place last week, effectively ending a lengthy stalemate.

Al-Hayat reported that the teams sat in separate rooms in an Egyptian intelligence building, with mediators acting as messengers passing on "suggestions and ideas".

Last week, reports stated that Ahmed Jabari, known as the head of Hamas's military wing, led a delegation to Cairo to discuss a prisoner exchange deal with intelligence officials.

David Meidan, a Mossad official recently appointed to head the talks on Israel's side, also visited the Egyptian capital last week. Following these developments, Egypt has decided to host the negotiations once again.

A senior Egyptian official told the paper that there had been no breakthroughs in talks so far, but was hopeful both sides would be flexible.

He added that Hamas had given Jabari full authority to finalize a deal with Israel.

Another source cited by al-Hayat said that there were visible signs of progress. "If there is true desire to strike a deal and if Israel displays willingness to pay the price for Shalit, there will be an agreement," he said.
There have been other negotiations in the past, always very unsuccessful, but there is a little hope that this round might work.

Hamas feels sidelined by the entire unilateral UN stunt the PLO is planning and would like to appear heroic for getting a thousand prisoners released. Netanyahu is feeling pressure from the tent protests as well and a Shalit release could distract from domestic issues. And Egypt would love to broker a successful agreement to increase its prestige post-revolution.

Not a perfect storm, but at least a little reason to keep an eye on the story.