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Israeli Government Rift Over Palestinian Prisoner Criteria

A top Israeli security official has attacked the government’s chief negotiator for the return of the captured soldiers, accusing him of being too lenient in his new criteria for determining eligibility for release. With some exceptions, the long-standing Israeli policy has been to deny the release of terrorists "with blood on their hands" referring to prisoners who took part in killing or wounding Israelis. However, chief negotiator, Ofer Dekel, and a significant number of the Olmert cabinet wish to see that standard relaxed, arguing that there might not otherwise be enough prisoners to meet the Hamas demands. The Hamas terror organization has been holding Corporal Gilad Shalit hostage for the past 18 months. (A different group, the Lebanon-based Hizbullah, kidnapped two soldiers 17 months ago, triggering the summer 2006 war in Lebanon). On Sunday, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet domestic security agency, backed by army Chief-of-Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, told a joint cabinet and security meeting that Diskin has overlooked what typically happens when such terrorists are released and return to the ranks of active fighters.