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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Olmert Equates Peace to Prisoner Exchange

SDE BOKER, Israel -- Israel will be prepared to release many Palestinian prisoners, including long-serving inmates, in return for a soldier militants seized last June, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday.

In a major policy speech, Olmert said he was reaching out to the Palestinians for peace, offering a series of humanitarian and economic incentives if violence against Israel ceased.

He conditioned any resumption of peace talks on the soldier's release and acceptance by any future Palestinian unity government of a international demands to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing interim peace accords.

"With Gilad Shalit's release and his return safe and sound to his family, the Israeli government will be willing to release many Palestinian prisoners, even those who have been sentenced to lengthy terms," Olmert said.

It was the first time Olmert had specially spoken of exchanging prisoners for Shalit, whose capture in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants triggered Israel's offensive into the Gaza Strip.

Olmert was speaking one day after a truce took hold in Gaza, designed to both halt the offensive and end rocket fire into Israel by Palestinian militants.

The cease-fire is seen as a step to reviving peace talks that collapsed in 2000 before the start of a Palestinian uprising.

Peace hopes have sunk farther since Hamas came to power in March. It is engaged in so-far-unsuccessful talks with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on forming a new coalition Palestinians hope can lead to an easing of Western sanctions.

Olmert said he would meet Abbas for a "serious dialogue" once a government that accepted Western terms was in place and Shalit was released.