Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, on Thursday responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on the prisoner exchange to free his son by saying that Israel knows the price required to free Gilad - and also the price of abandoning him.
“Tens of thousands of citizens marching with us to Jerusalem are aware of the price that is required to free Gilad – but they also know the price of abandoning him,” said Noam Shalit in response to Netanyahu’s address.
“We are troubled that after four years in which Gilad has been rotting in Hamas’ dungeons, all Netanyahu succeeds in doing is recycling Olmert’s press conference,” Shalit said, in a reference to former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was previously negotiating with Hamas for Shalit’s release.
Netanyahu “chose to paint for us scenarios of terror, as though things haven’t changed since then, as though there are no security services,” Shalit said in a reference to Netanyahu’s warning that releasing terrorists co, adding that past and present chiefs of staff support the deal and “are convinced the security forces will confront the threats we can expect and know that the risk faced by Gilad is an existential one.”
Shalit added that Netanyahu does not know how to leverage pressure on Hamas or to persist in maintaining the blockade on Gaza.
“Tens of thousands of citizens marching with us to Jerusalem continue on this difficult and exhausting path, despite knowing the price required to for Gilad’s freedom,” Shalit said. “They also know the price of abandoning Gilad. I turn to you, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu, listen to the voices of the masses marching with us, and find the strength to make this difficult decision.”
Meanwhile, Zvi Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s grandfather, also said he was outraged by Netanyahu’s address.
“I reject his remarks unequivocally,” said the elder Shalit. “These comments constitute a death sentence for Gilad.”
Netanyahu said that Israel is willing to free 1,000 prisoners in an exchange with Hamas, but that the country would not pay any price for Gilad Shalit.
The address came four days after the Shalit family began a protest march from their Galilee home to the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.
Zvi Shalit told Haaretz that he urged the prime minister on Tuesday to make an announcement that would end the family’s difficult protest march, “but I didn’t expect this,” said Shalit.
“The prime minister is using speculation in an attempt to make excuses for delaying the deal,” said Shalit, who added that he feels it is time to increase the pressure on Netanyahu and continue the march.
The chairman of the campaign to free Shalit, Shimshon Liebman, said in response to Netanyahu’s remarks, “We expected more than sympathy from the prime minister after four years of [Gilad’s] imprisonment.”
“We expected that the prime minister would say how he would return Gilad home after all of the momentum gained in this matter was destroyed by the Gaza aid flotilla incident,” Liebman said.
“We expected the prime minister to be attentive to the masses that are joining us. We want him to show leadership and have the power to change the moral compass and strategy of the state of Israel,” Liebman said. “The public isn’t stupid; they understand the price and they are marching with us.”
Since Thursday morning, 5,000 participants have marched from Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael to Kibbutz Ma’abarot in the fifth day of a march organized by the abducted soldier’s family, from their home in the Galilee to Netanyahu’s official residence of Jerusalem.