Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to lower hopes on Monday that a deal for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was imminent, warning that a number of media reports on the matter were intentionally misleading.
“During the recent period, many pieces of information originating abroad and in the foreign media have been published; they are unauthorized, and some of them are intentionally false,” Netanyahu’s bureau said in a statement.
The prime minister’s comments came after Shalit’s parents and brother met on Monday with the prime minister’s special negotiator, amid Hamas declaration that a prisoner swap deal for the soldier’s release could be sealed by next week.
The Shalits met with Hagai Hadas in Tel Aviv in the morning and and were scheduled to hold talks later with several cabinet ministers in Jerusalem.
“We can’t say anything at this stage, and there is nothing to add,” the soldier’s father, Noam Shalit, told reporters following the meeting. “We would be happy to include you in our joy, if that happens. I am still not reassured.”
A source involved in the meetings told Haaretz that the meetings with Hadas and the ministers were scheduled some time ago and had nothing to do with reported new developments.
As they entered the meeting with Hadas on Monday, the family refused to answer questions from reporters, saying: “Now is not the time to talk.”
Hamas leaders have previously been very circumspect about reports of breakthroughs, but reports circulating of late have predicted an imminent deal.
Meanwhile, the leader of the group of Israeli activists working for Shalit’s release, Shimshon Liebman, told Haaretz that their silence over the past few days had not been coordinated with the prime minister’s bureau, censorship officials or because of any new information.
“At a time like this, when there are so many groundless rumors, we prefer to give space to those doing the work and not interfere,” Liebman said.