Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Gaddafi offered to handover Shalit in exchange for halting NATO attack – Israeli official | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat – Israeli Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Druze politician Ayoob Kara, has revealed that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi offered to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and sign an Israeli – Libyan Peace Treaty in return for Tel Aviv convincing the international community to halt the NATO attacks on Libya.

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Kara revealed that “I have mutual friends with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in Austria. He [Saif al-Islam] studied in Vienna for a number of years, and I have a number of friends who were his class-mates there and who interceded on his behalf. The main figure in the mediation was David Lazar [member of the Austrian Freedom Party] who is a Jewish Austrian citizen who came forward to us with this offer.”

Kara also revealed that Gaddafi sent him an official invitation to visit Libya in order to discuss this proposal, and that he personally wanted to visit Libya in this regard but was prevented from doing so by the Israeli authorities for security reasons. For this reason, the Israeli Deputy Minister asked his Austrian friend to visit Libya in his place. David Lazar, who is also reportedly a member of the Vienna City Council, visited Libya where he met with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and spoke with him in detail about Libya’s offer to secure the release of Gilad Shalit and sign a peace treaty with Israel. Kara claimed that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi even expressed his willingness to personally visit Israel – after securing the release of Gilad Shalit – and speak before the Knesset, in the same manner as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1977.

Kara also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Libyan offer was taken seriously in Tel Aviv, who asked Gaddafi to present it in writing; however the situation in Tripoli collapsed before Gaddafi could do so – with the rebels advance on the Libyan capital – which resulted in the Israeli authorities deciding to end communication with the Gaddafi regime.

In response to a question as to whether he believed that Libya could genuinely secure the release of Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since June 2006, Kara said that “we also asked this question, and the answer we received was that Saif al-Islam and his father have very serious relations with Hamas chief Khalid Meshal and with the Syrian authorities.” He added that “there was no doubt that he [Saif al-Islam] could talk in confidence about bartering [for Shalit’s release] in the context of this [Israeli – Libyan] deal.

Answering a question regarding what precisely the Gaddafi regime required from Israel in response to this, Kara revealed that “they wanted the NATO forces to stop their war on Gaddafi. They also asked for Israel to intervene [on behalf of Libya] to the US, which would influence their allies in Europe and put a stop to the [NATO] attack.”

As for whether Tel Aviv could accept such demands, Kara told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we are interested in freeing Shalit and signing a peace treaty with another Arab country.”

Asked whether it was politically viable for Israel to support a regime that is pursuing a policy of violence and suppression against its own people, the Israeli Deputy Minister stressed that “we do not interfere in the internal affairs of any state. Also this was an issue that would be discussed by the government, and it would be the [Israeli] government that ultimately makes the decision. We did not reach this stage, because the offer came too late.”

Kara also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Tel Aviv is not currently in communication with the ousted Libyan leader, although when asked whether Israel knows where Gaddafi is today, he refused to comment.