Ordeal Over, Shalits Move On

Gilad Covered NBA Finals While Dad Runs for Office

By Nathan Jeffay

Published June 24, 2012, issue of June 29, 2012.
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He had to face the “conflict” between wanting to get back to his old life and accepting that his five years of waging a relentless campaign for his son’s return had irrevocably changed him. He chose the latter, and decided to enter politics. Noam Shalit will stand for the Knesset on a Labor ticket in the next elections, due in the fall of 2013.

Aviva Shalit, his wife, feels “very bad” about his choice, he admitted: “She doesn’t like the idea that I will be on the front lines in the media and so on. She wants to go back to the way that we lived before.” Reflecting the tension in the household, Noam Shalit conducted the interview in the front garden rather than inside the house, where family members would be nearby.

Discussing his decision not to go back to work involved a rare admission of how complex his life has become. This is a man who, on most subjects, has boiled down his opinions to curt and very definite statements. He will feel no conflict campaigning politically against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man who made the prisoner exchange deal and freed more than 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners to bring his son back home. Netanyahu “was committed to do this, [and] he didn’t do us a favor,” because the government has an obligation to rescue its soldiers, he said.

Shalit also said that even though his campaign is widely credited with pushing Netanyahu to make the exchange, which by Shalit’s own assessment went against Netanyahu’s beliefs, “against his politics and almost against his DNA,” Shalit believes that he shares no responsibility for its ramifications. When asked what he will feel if a prisoner released in the deal commits a terrorist attack in the future and accusations are leveled against him, he responded: “Accusations against me? It’s not my decision to release Palestinian prisoners.”

Shalit is confident that he could compartmentalize his negative feelings toward Hamas if ever the time came that the movement was prepared to negotiate And if he enters politics, he will be prepared to take part in talks. “If there would be any chance to talk to them and promote peace and promote the two-state solution, I will be glad to talk to anybody,” he said. On the subject of the Palestinians, Shalit said he believes that “maybe if I were a Palestinian, I would fight the Israeli armed forces.”

Shalit’s expression hardly changed during the course of his interview, and he hardly moved his face or body, sitting straight in his chair. Talking to him, one gets the sense that his dispassionate way of applying logic was the secret to the campaign for his son’s freedom. He hardly needed to display emotion; by getting the nation to think of his son as everybody’s son, he made use of his fellow citizens’ emotions to mobilize them. And he focused his energies on making the same demands over and over again, for the most part without losing his cool.

Asked about his lack of anger when he discusses his son’s captivity, he said matter-of-factly: “I never believed that anger will do me good or will improve our chances to get Gilad back. On the contrary, it will divert me from the focus and will reduce my capabilities.”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


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