Livni breaks ranks over prisoner exchange deal

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni yesterday broke sharply with the mainstream consensus of support for the prisoner exchange which secured abducted soldier Gilad Shalit’s release with an emphatic warning that it had strengthened Hamas and weakened Israel.

Ms Livni yesterday called on the government to co-ordinate the second batch of 550 prisoner releases with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to offset a deal in which “an extreme right wing [Israeli] government has provided legitimacy for the Hamas.”

The former foreign minister is the first prominent politician outside the ranks of the far right to criticise the deal, which provides for the release of 1,027 prisoners, some convicted for violent attacks including organising suicide bombings. She disclosed that she had promised Sgt Shalit’s father Noam that she would not voice her concerns until after it was completed. Ms Livni referred to the emotional popular clamour for Sgt Shalit’s release by saying that the Israeli public had been “engulfed in the Gilad Shalit reality TV show” and had “coerced” the government into deciding in favour of the exchange.

The opposition leader pointedly coupled her warnings about the effect of the exchange for Sgt Shalit with criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau’s failure to enter peace negotiations with the moderate Fatah-dominated leadership of Mr Abbas. While Israel says it is ready for direct talks “without preconditions”, Mr Netanyahu has declined to grant the settlement freeze Mr Abbas is insisting is needed as an article of good faith if the talks are to restart.

Ms Livni whose centrist Kadima party won the biggest single number of votes in the 2009 elections, told the mass circulation daily Yedhiot Ahronot that as a result of the Shalit deal “Israel is today weaker and Hamas stronger—and no one can dispute this fact.” She said that unless Mr Netanyahu now launched a “dramatic political initiative” the message will be that Israel acts only when threatened, when its soldiers are abducted, or when fired upon with missiles.

Ms Livni’s outspoken remarks came as Defence Minister Ehud Barak indicated he was keen for legislation which would limit the number of prisoners the Israeli government can exchange for soldiers captured by militants, partly to deter future abductions. Mr Barak will shortly receive a report he commissioned four years ago from former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar suggesting guidelines for future exchanges.

Mr Barak reaffirmed his strong support for the Shalit deal, arguing that any restrictions on exchanges could not have been enacted while the 25 year old sergeant was incarcerated. While insisting that the exchange did not itself undermine Israel’s power of deterrence, he told the right wing newspaper Israel Hayom: “We can’t ignore the fact that a single abduction produced the return of over one thousand terrorists… We cannot ignore Hamas’s achievements in this deal…it is Hamas’s sense that if we gave up a thousand [prisoners] we can be compelled to give up 8,000 and that therefore they must undertake further abductions. We will obviously move to check this trend.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most