Jack Khoury
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said Tuesday that a prisoner exchange deal for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces solider Gilad Shalit was still a long way off.

President Shimon Peres told IDF soldiers Monday that the release Shalit did not depend solely on Israel, but was being hampered by disagreements between Hamas' wing in the Gaza Strip and its overseas wing.

It was the first time in more than a week that a senior Israeli official has mentioned the ongoing negotiations. Media have reported of late progress in the talks, which would see Shalit freed after three years in Palestinian captivity, but Israel and Hamas have still not settled on an agreement.

Peres was responding to questions from soldiers during a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at a Nahal Brigade base near the border between Israel and Gaza.

A source in the President's Residence said there was no political significance to Peres' remark; he "simply thought the soldiers should be spoken to sincerely."

Peres, who was accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, also said that "Israel will do everything possible to bring our soldier son home safe and sound. That is the nation's will and that is also the soldiers' will. We are giving expression to the feeling that the fate of one soldier is the fate of all of us, the fate of the whole nation."

Peres also mentioned the issue of soldiers disobeying orders, saying, "an army without a clear and unequivocal chain of command cannot win when the day of battle comes. We all have to make sure that the IDF operates under a single command, without political interference. From the chief of staff down to the simple soldier there must be a single chain of command. There is no room for two commanders in the field. That I learned well during my time of service alongside David Ben-Gurion.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017