Roni Sofer
September 24, 2008 - 8:00pm,7340,L-3602043,00.html

The Ramon Committee submitted a list to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday afternoon consisting of the names of the 450 Palestinian prisoners Israel will free in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The committee approved half of the names demanded by Hamas.

The negotiations, however, are currently frozen as Hamas is refusing to cooperate with talk mediator Egypt.

The Ramon Committee met once more last month to further advance the efforts to bring Shalit home. Olmert, together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, decided to reconvene the committee as testament to Israel's earnestness.

Ministers Daniel Friedmann, Gideon Ezra and Avi Dichter sat in on the deliberations, at the end of which a list of names was submitted.

The committee amended the criteria determining which prisoners 'have blood
on their hands' - the objective being to release as many prisoners as possible from Hamas' list without compromising national security.

The Shin Bet vehemently rejected the decision to change the criteria. Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin repeatedly warned against releasing prisoners who may pose a threat to Israel's security. However the prime minister, and the cabinet ministers involved in the process, are striving to find middle ground in the hopes of seeing Shalit released.

Hamas: Israeli manipulations

Hamas, as mentioned earlier, has frozen all talks regarding Shalit. A spokesman for the Islamist group, Fawzi Barhoum, accused Israel of playing games in approving the list.

"Israel continues it policies of stalling and playing games, they're not serious about resolving the Shalit matter. Barhoum said that the list of demands Hamas made of Israel is non-negotiable. "What the Israelis have approved cannot be called progress, it is only another Israeli manipulation."

"What the Israelis have approved can't be defined as progress, just as more manipulation. We insist that all the veteran prisoners and all those sentenced to life terms be freed as part of the exchange deal," said Barhoum.


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