An “urgent press release” issued by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed of the University of Sussex Dept. of International Affairs states,
The Omega Institute (OI), which works closely with the Institute for Policy Research for Development (IPRD), has learned from Israeli and Palestinian sources that just prior to the current crisis, senior Hamas leaders were in active dialogue with Israeli religious leaders in a round of bilateral peace negotiations. Israeli negotiators included Rabbi Menachem Froman, former deputy leader and co-founder of the Israeli Settler movement Gush Khatif; Rabbi David Bigman, head of the liberal religious Kibbutz movement Yeshiva at Ma’ale Gilboa; and Yitzhak Frankenthal, founder of the Arik Institute. Ongoing negotiations had resulted in a breakthrough peace “understanding”, which was to be announced at a press conference in Jerusalem to mark the launching of an extraordinary peace initiative. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had been briefed extensively about the initiative by Frankenthal. Also due to attend the conference were Khaled Abu Arafa, the Palestinian Cabinet Minister for Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhamed Abu Tir, senior Hamas Member of the Palestinian Parliament, and other senior Palestinian delegates.
The meeting was to announce a joint Israeli-Palestinian call for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit who had been abducted by Hamas in Gaza, along with proposals for the beginning of the release of all Palestinian prisoners. These measures were to precipitate unprecedented new peace negotiations on a framework peace agreement, drawn on the 1967 borders. The presence of Palestinian Cabinet Officers and senior Israeli religious leaders in contact with the Prime Minster was to underline the seriousness of this peace proposal on both sides.
Just hours before the meeting was due to start, the Israeli Shin Bet internal Security Service arrested Abu Tir and Abu Arafa and warned them not to attend the meeting, under threats of detention. The meeting, which offered a major opportunity to obtain Shalit’s release and launch a new framework for peace, was thrown into disarray. The next day, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) invaded Gaza, and the day after both Abu Tir and Abu Arafa were abducted by Israeli forces, along with a third of the Palestinian Cabinet, provoking a predictable escalation of violence.