The United States and Egypt are maintaining contact with Hamas for the purpose of allowing two past US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter into the Gaza Strip, so reports the Egyptian Al-Masrion newspaper.
According to the report, the purpose of the pair’s arrival to the area is to advance contacts for an eventual deal for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Additionally, Clinton and carter are expected to discuss the blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip.
During his official visit to Washington during which he also met with Clinton two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought up the Shalit issue with senior members of the Obama administration, and even tried to convince former president Bill Clinton to become a special envoy to deal with the topic, though it remains unclear if Clinton obliged.
“I asked that the President apply his full strength and means at his disposal in order to bring about the release of Shalit after four years in Hamas captivity,” said Netanyahu to the ministers at the government meeting where he updated them about his visit and his meeting with President Obama. According to Netanyahu, he brought up the Shalit issue with the President, Secretary of State Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Vice President Joe Biden, and with the US Ambassador to the UN.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak claims that the Prime Minister’s attempts and to enlist the Obama administration in efforts to return the captive soldier will not bear fruit. According to Barak, the solution lay in an Israeli decision to act on the matter, and not on international help.
“At the end of the day, to bring Gilad Home—that remains our responsibility. We must do everything we can so that Gilad can return,” Barak said, but did not mention the method he had in mind in order to bring about the release of the Israeli soldier. “It’s impossible to talk about this on television without harming the process itself,” he claimed.
Clinton has served as a special envoy of the Obama administration in the framework of a series of international initiatives, and a year ago succeeded in bringing about the release of two American journalists who were imprisoned in North Korea and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. According to the initiative Netanyahu is trying to advance, Clinton will arrive at the Gaza Strip and meet with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, after which he may also be able to meet Gilad Shalit and help with contacts towards his release.
Responding to these reports, Noam Shalit expressed indifference, saying that he does not rely on international help in efforts to free his son from four years of captivity.