The 2011 deal to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners was influenced by a variety of political factors, including last year’s social protest movement, chief negotiator David Meidan said on Monday, according to a Haaretz report.
Meidan, speaking at a closed-door lecture at Tel Aviv University, said that the social protest movement, which saw the largest public demonstrations in Israel’s history, was “part of the considerations” that led to Shalit’s October release after five and a half years of captivity, but “not the central part.” He did not elaborate.
The participation of the post-revolution Egyptian security service, which served as middleman between Hamas and Israel during negotiations, was the “central factor,” Meidan said.
The Egyptians were chosen as mediators over Turkey or Qatari options. They plied Hamas military wing head Ahmed Jabari with meals, clothing and even laser-eye surgery to sweeten the deal, according to Meidan.
Also crucial was the participation of Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who paved the way for SMS communication between Meidan and Hamas. Meidan revealed that “for a whole month we talked in text messages, from morning to night. Late at night, I would write Hamas that we’ll continue tomorrow, and they would answer ‘good night.’”
Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were aware of the final negotiations, and Noam and Aviva Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s parents, were only notified once the final agreement was signed.