Israel must set new rules governing prisoner exchanges such as the one implemented to secure soldier Gilad Shalit’s release, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.
“I’m happy about the deal on the exchange for Gilad Shalit, but we must set new rules,” he told the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom.
Barak spoke a little less than a week after Shalit, who was held captive in Gaza for over five years, returned to Israel in return for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to be freed over two months.
The deal had broad support inside Israel but was criticized in some quarters as a capitulation that strengthened Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza and was among the groups that captured Shalit in 2006.
On Sunday, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni said the deal had shifted the balance of power towards Hamas.
“The whole world understands that extremist Hamas has been strengthened and Israel must now act to retrieve its deterrence capability,” she told public radio.
Barak said it was important for Israel to draft rules that were in keeping with the policy adopted by other Western nations.
“A profound change is need... The new rules must take into account our national interests, and be closer to those adopted by various Western nations like that United States, Britain and Australia,” Barak said.
A committee headed by former Supreme Court justice Meir Shamgar was set up nearly four years ago to examine the criteria and parameters Israel should observe during prisoners exchanges.
Its conclusions were not published for fear of negatively affecting negotiations to secure Shalit’s release, but with his return, the results are expected to be made public in around two weeks.