It sounds as if Israel is agreeing to a prisoner exchange after all:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas confirmed Tuesday that a deal had been reached to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Abbas told Bahrain-based newspaper El-Halij that Shalit would be transferred to Egypt and held there until Israel fulfilled its part of the bargain.
According to Al-Hayat, Shalit was handed over to Egypt “a short time ago” in exchange for Israel’s guarantee to release 800 Palestinian prisoners in three stage.
Although “a senior government source said that Israel was unaware of such developments”, there’s rather a lot of smoke for a mere rumor.
Beyond my absolute astonishment that Cpl. Shalit still lives, I’m stunned that Olmert has approved this. All the rhetoric, bombs, and death… for an outcome that was proposed at the onset.
This appears to be a disastrous move by Israel, in terms of both politics and domestic security. However, Haaretz reports that once prisoners are exchanged, Abbas and Olmert plan to begin talks:
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, speaking Tuesday amid reports of an imminent prisoner exchange deal for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, said that once Shalit were freed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would invite Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for talks based on the road map peace plan.
This all sounds very familiar somehow, doesn’t it? Still, hope springs eternal…
[ed] I just can’t stop thinking about this. Dang it, if this where it ended up after all, why on earth didn’t Olmert just do the exchange in the first place? He could either take the firm line… or agree to exchange…. but not both!