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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A rewarding opportunity to work with an easy-...

Recruitment Genius: National Sales Account Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum