Lieberman walked out of Shalit deal debate, voted ‘no’

Three government ministers voted against the Gilad Shalit swap on Tuesday night – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau.

Lieberman barely spoke at the meeting, apart from two questions he presented to Shin Bet security service shief Yoram Cohen. After the security chiefs finished their presentations and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his opening speech, Lieberman left the conference room. Before he left – approximately two hours before the meeting was adjourned – he left a note with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser saying he is voting against the deal.

Lieberman refused to elaborate on his reasons for opposing the swap. Sources who work closely with him said that his stance is not new, and that he has conveyed it a number of times to Shalit’s parents. Nevertheless, the sources said, Lieberman decided not to speak against the deal during the meeting because he didn’t want to appear to be launching a “campaign” against the agreement. “At the end of the day,” the sources said, “he allowed the Yisrael Beiteinu ministers to vote as they see fit.”

Contrary to Lieberman, Minister Ya’alon explained his opposition during the meeting, saying the deal will encourage terrorism and strengthen Hamas. “These terrorists were learning in prison, and they will go back to terrorism just like after the Gibril Deal,” he said. “I personally know some of those who are to be released – these are bomb makers and unit operators. The present calm in Judea and Samaria is about to change.”