The failure of the negotiations in Cairo to bring about the release of Israeli prisoner of war Cpl. Gilad Shalit has prompted the Israeli government to announce measures geared to increase pressure on Hamas in a number of ways. The ultimate goal will be to spur its leadership to show flexibility.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert formed a special ministerial committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedman, to draw up a list of strategies that would then be presented for a cabinet vote at its next meeting if the new government isn’t sworn in yet.

Among the steps being considered are worsening the terms of incarceration for Hamas convicts in Israeli jails to make them more resemble the conditions in which Gilad Shalit is being held.

Ministers proposed banning family visitation rights, and especially Red Cross visits, because Hamas will not allow the Red Cross to visit Cpl. Shalit.

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Currently, the Hamas convicts live in relative comfort in comparison with prisons around the world. They have beds and mattresses, a hot shower, clean lavatories and each prisoner is entitled to possess basic foods and beverages. The incarcerated terrorists are entitled to a newspaper in Hebrew and a newspaper in Arabic, a television set in their cell, a personal radio, a kettle and soft drinks.

Some of the convicts complete their matriculation exams in prison and are also entitled to do undergraduate work at the Israeli Open University. The security convicts are entitled to visits by the Red Cross, their families and their lawyers.

Israel will try to use the convicts’ influence to pressure the Hamas leadership.

Ofer Dekel, an Israeli intelligence official, is considering making personal trips to the prisons in order to meet with these convicts.

Mr. Dekel will distribute a list of the convicts Israel was prepared to release and will place responsibility for their continued incarceration on Hamas’ obstinacy.

Israel Justice Minister Friedman said at the end of Tuesday’s Israeli cabinet meeting, “Hamas is going to discover that there are lines that the State of Israel cannot cross.”

Mr. Olmert asked Attorney General Meni Mazuz to participate on the committee in order to examine which measures could legally be taken and which could not.

Additional administrative steps that will be discussed as a means of applying pressure on Hamas include making the supervision of the border crossings stricter and reducing the volume of goods passing through those border crossings to the bare humanitarian minimum.

David Bedein can be reached at


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.