“As we have done in the past, we intend to give the public a period of at least 48 hours from the moment of the publication of the list of prisoners to submit reservations or opposition to this or that release,” the ministry said in a statement.
A ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter said the list was not finalized and added, “The earliest the swap will take place is Tuesday or Wednesday next week.”
The newly elected head of the Labor Party, Shelly Yachimovich, said in a radio interview Wednesday that the opposition fully supports the swap, which public opinion polls have shown is also backed by the vast majority of Israelis.
Others, however, voiced concern about the deal. Meir Indor, head of the terrorist victims’ association Almagor, said after the announcement that “those who will pay the price of the swap are the scores and hundreds of wounded and dead from future terror attacks.”
“I recommend that the public wear flak jackets,” he said.
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, a member of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Is Our Home) party and one of three ministers to vote against the deal, said the move represented a victory for terrorism. “It will be a blow to Israel’s deterrence and the security of Israel,” he said.
The consummation of a deal between the sworn adversaries after years of fruitless negotiations reflected the pressures facing both Israel and Hamas at a time of region-wide uprisings and a rapidly shifting Middle Eastern landscape.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously warned that a swap for Shalit would free dangerous militants and put Israel’s security at risk. But amid a relentless campaign by Shalit’s family that won the hearts of the Israeli public, Netanyahu ultimately bowed. In remarks Tuesday night, he acknowledged that Israel, which has become increasingly isolated amid the regional tumult, was faced with the stark choice of winning Shalit’s freedom now or seeing the chance disappear forever.
Hamas, meanwhile, receives a much-needed boost from the deal at a time when it has been overshadowed by Fatah, its chief rival, which has led a popular bid at the United Nations for Palestinian statehood. By winning the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Hamas can claim an achievement that had long eluded the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
Still, the move eliminates one of Hamas’s chief bargaining chips in its dealings with Israel. And despite the successful outcome of the Egyptian-brokered negotiations, there was little indication that Tuesday’s deal would lead to a broader breakthrough in Middle Eastern peace talks, which remain dormant.