By Barak Ravid, Yoav Stern and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents
Israel will agree to resume negotiations with Hamas for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit only if Hamas submits a new list of prisoners for Israel's consideration, Ofer Dekel, the government's chief negotiator for Shalit, told Egyptian mediators Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Hamas' most senior prisoners held a special meeting at Ketziot Prison to discuss Israel's offer, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported. The Israel Prison Service - which, according to Maan, approved the meeting - declined to comment.
Israel has agreed to free 450 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, including 325 of the specific 450 demanded by Hamas by name. However, it refuses to free the remaining 125. Therefore, Dekel said, no progress is possible unless Hamas submits a new list from which Israel can select another 125 prisoners to make up the shortfall.
The Hamas negotiators are still in Cairo, and Dekel is in regular phone contact with the Egyptian mediators. But he will not return to Cairo unless Hamas submits such a list, a senior government official said.
The official added that this is the best offer Hamas is going to get.
Meanwhile, protesters seeking to persuade the cabinet to simply pay Hamas' price took a brief hiatus Sunday.
Gilad's parents, Noam and Aviv Shalit, abandoned their protest tent in Jerusalem Saturday night and spent much of yesterday alone in their house in Mitzpeh Hila. Asked what he has planned for the final days of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's tenure - another 12 at most - Noam Shalit replied that the family has yet to decide on its next steps, but "we're still hoping that something will happen and there will be a
breakthrough. I hope Hamas will also internalize that it's worth its while to close a deal in this government's remaining days."
Nevertheless, he doubted that the government's recent decision to impose harsher conditions on Hamas prisoners in Israel would be much use.
"These steps will apparently not help, and they have come very belatedly," he said.
Shimshon Liebman, a neighbor of the Shalits who has been active in the protest campaign, vowed to "work until this government's last day." But he admitted that the options are limited.
"A year ago, via someone defined as very close to the prime minister, we gave Olmert proposals for applying pressure [on Hamas], whether via the issue of opening the [Gaza border] crossings, jail conditions for Hamas prisoners, monetary transfers, or by the government publishing the names of the prisoners it is willing to release and transferring them to a closed compound, so that everyone would know, even in Hamas, that these prisoners would be freed immediately the minute Gilad is freed," he said. "Unfortunately, none of this was done."