[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website; BBC profile] Wednesday rejected a demand by Palestinian militants to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners [JURIST report] in exchange for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit [Times backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. In a speech before Israel's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee [official website], Olmert said that the list of Palestinian prisoners, which according to news reports includes between 350 and 1,400 names, created expectations that Israel cannot meet. Last week, Olmert expressed disappointment [press release; JURIST report] that the list purportedly included high-profile names like Marwan Barghouti [[BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Ahmed Saadat [BBC profile]. Saadat is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [organization website], a radical group suspected of carrying out the 2001 assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister. Barghouti is the leader of the Fatah party [party website] in the West Bank and was charged with the murder of 26 people after his arrest in 2002.
Shalit was captured in Gaza [JURIST report] on June 25, and his detention helped spark the latest round of violence [JURIST news archive] in the region over the summer. Palestinian militants have demanded the large-scale release of Palestinian prisoners from the beginning, but negotiations have not been successful to date. In November 2006, Olmert said that Israel was willing to release many Palestinian prisoners [JURIST report] in exchange for Shalit's freedom, including long-term Palestinian detainees. Israel [JURIST news archive] says Shalit's release is a precondition to any serious peace conditions. AP has more.