UPDATE (7:38): Confirming the deal, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said the swap would take place in a week. Though Palestinians celebrated the deal and though trading 1,000 guys for one guy would seem to be a poor bargain, Jonathan Tobin explains why Prime Minister Netanyahu was right to make the deal (or, more precisely, why he had to). Jeff Goldberg has some thoughts, too.
UPDATE (7:15): New reports say Marwan Barghouti will not be a part of the deal, which is said to involve more than 1000 prisoners.
UPDATE (4:45): You can read Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks to his cabinet, in which he invokes the principle of tikkun olam, here. Speaking of saving one life versus saving the world entire, already a Committee of Rabbis for the Salvation of Israel is opposing the deal on the grounds that the prisoners it will free will end up killing Jews.
UPDATE (4:12): President Abbas announced his support for the Shalit deal (if the train is leaving the station, you may as well get on board). Also, Shmuel Rosner reports that the religious Shas party, unlike Yisrael Beiteinu, is backing it.
UPDATE (4:00): “In the coming days we will return Gilad to the bosom of his parents, Aviva and Noam, to his brother Yoel, his sister Hadas, his grandfather Tzvi and the entire people of Israel,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. Hamas leader Khamed Meshaal claims 1000 prisoners will be released. Meanwhile, speculation continues to swirl about why both Netanyahu and Hamas would desire Barghouti’s freedom: he is at the very least an ex-terrorist likely to sharply challenge President Abbas’ leadership but also strengthen Fatah against Hamas.
UPDATE (3:35): Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office tweets, “I especially thank the #Egyptian government and its security services for their role in mediation & concluding of the deal #Shalit.” Shmuel Rosner reports that a few ministers, including Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, voted agains the deal. Haaretz reports that the deal has been several days in the making, with Israel’s and Hamas’ chief negotiators in Cairo for the past several days and with Netanyahu holding a meeting of a special committee, the existence of which was placed under a gag order.
UPDATE (3:10): According to the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Twitter feed, Shalit “will be coming home in the next few days.” Also: “the agreement to release #Shalit was signed in initials last Thursday and today was signed formally by the two parties.” Much speculation is centering around the identities of the hundreds of prisoners which Israel would be releasing, and most of all whether Marwan Barghouti, the extremely popular Palestinian leader who was jailed for his alleged role in the Second Intifada, will be included. What’s interesting about this is that Barghouti is seen as a rival to Hamas.
(UPDATE 2:55: Israel Radio says the deal has been reached.) It might be happening. The Israeli cabinet is meeting in an emergency session over a prisoner swap deal (well into the hundreds) with Hamas, apparently brokered by Egypt (and not by the German mediator who had been handling things).
If approved, Shalit could be returned as early as November, or roughly 65 months after his capture.
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that U.S. authorities disrupted an Iran-backed “significant terrorist attack in the United States” targeting Israeli and Saudi diplomats and embassies. The Saudi embassy is in Foggy Bottom, in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Watergate complex, yards from the Kennedy Center, and a couple blocks from the State Department; the Israeli embassy is in sleepier upper northwest, a few blocks from my synagogue and a few more from my high school. In other words, the Iranians are kind of assholes.