" Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will not accept Hamas demands for releasing prisoners in exchange for a soldier held nearly three years in Gaza.
Olmert addressed his nation on TV after his Cabinet heard a report about failed indirect talks in Cairo between Israel and Hamas.
Olmert said Israel would not agree to add names to the list of prisoners it was prepared to release to win freedom for the soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, 22.
Olmert said efforts would continue, but it was clear that he believed there was no chance for a deal while he is in office.
"There are red lines," he declared. "We will not cross them."
Israel TV showed the live statement Tuesday on a split screen with the soldier’s parents watching outside.
Israel’s outgoing government will not be able to win freedom for a soldier held in Gaza for nearly three years, Israeli officials and the soldier’s father indicated Tuesday, after the Cabinet heard a discouraging report on the failed talks with Hamas in Cairo.
An Israeli official said efforts would continue, but there was disagreement over nearly a third of the hardcore prisoners Hamas was demanding in return for the soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, 22. The official said Israel would maintain its blockade on Gaza until the soldier is back home.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert planned to make a nationally televised statement Tuesday evening, his office said. But even before that, meeting participants signaled they had abandoned the negotiations and would turn over the matter to the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The prime minister was prepared to make far-reaching concessions, far beyond what some of the ministers were willing to do," Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann told reporters after the meeting. "Hamas’ demands reached proportions that no Israeli government could accept."
"Hamas will also discover that there are lines that Israel is not willing to cross," he added.
As ministers discussed the faltering deal, Schalit’s parents and brother sat outside Olmert’s office, wearing T-shirts with the soldier’s picture that said "help."
After a briefing from Olmert, the soldier’s father, Noam Schalit, held out no hope that the Olmert government would win freedom for his son, saying only that it would be "a basis for the next government to continue the efforts."
Throughout the day, prospects further deteriorated, with Israel and Hamas accusing each other of undermining the negotiations. (…)"