Bibi: Israeli's Shalit Offer Is Final

By Barak Ravid (Haaretz)

Published February 15, 2010.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell Hamas that Israel will not sweeten its offer for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Meanwhile, Medvedev told his Israeli visitor that Russia will hold off on delivering an advanced air defense system, the S-300, to Iran.

Netanyahu asked Medvedev to tell Hamas that Israel wants to make a deal for Shalit, but will not agree to release more Palestinian prisoners than it has already. The Russian president offered Moscow’s help in the talks.

A senior source in Netanyahu’s entourage said the Israeli leader urged Medvedev not to legitimize Hamas. “We are not pleased with your relations with Hamas,” he quoted Netanyahu as telling Medvedev. “But since they exist, we can relay messages on humanitarian issues. Tell Hamas they won’t get a better offer from us on the [Shalit] deal.”

Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein and National Security Advisor Uzi Arad also attended part of the three-hour meeting. After lunch, Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Anna Azari, MK Zeev Elkin and other Netanyahu advisers joined them.

Much of the meeting was about Iran. A senior Israeli official who attended said Medvedev made “harsh statements on the Iranian issue, the likes of which we’ve never heard from him.”

A key topic was Russia’s planned sale of the S-300 to Iran. Israel has repeatedly asked Russia to scrap its contract for the anti-aircraft missiles, which could help Iran thwart any attempt to bomb its nuclear facilities.

An hour before Netanyahu’s plane took off on Sunday, Russian officials said Moscow sees no reason to delay the S-300 sale. “There is a signed contract [for the S-300 missiles] which we must follow through on, but deliveries have not started yet,” Vladimir Nazarov, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told the Interfax news agency.

And on Friday, Russian intelligence officials leaked angry comments about an Israeli firm’s plan to close a major arms deal with Georgia.

But the message conveyed by Medvedev at yesterday’s meeting was that Russia would not deliver the missiles at this stage, and would update Israel on any change in this position, a senior Israeli official said.

“On this issue, Russia is taking the need for stability in the region into consideration,” Netanyahu told reporters.

Netanyahu told Medvedev that Iran’s nuclear ambitions must be halted before it develops an atomic bomb and implored him to back “sanctions with teeth” targeting Iran’s energy sector. What is needed, the premier told reporters after the meeting, are sanctions that would reduce Iranian imports and exports of oil.

“Diluted sanctions don’t work,” Netanyahu said.

He then added a warning: “Any military action against Iran will make the situation explode and will have extremely negative consequences for the entire world, including for Russia, which is a neighbor of Iran.”

The two leaders also discussed ways of resuming negotiations with the Palestinians. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is due to visit Moscow next week for the second time in a month, and Netanyahu asked Medvedev to urge him to return to negotiations without preconditions.

“Why must we pay for the right to sit with somebody?” Netanyahu demanded “It’s absurd. It’s unacceptable. This is no peace process.”



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