Noam Schalit defended his decision to run for Knesset with Labor, in a Tuesday morning press conference with party leader Shelly Yacimovich at Labor’s Kfar Saba headquarters.

Since the party announced his intention to run on Monday, Schalit has faced criticism from MKs on the Right and Left, as well as organizations representing victims of terror and war, who have accused him of taking advantage of his son Gilad’s kidnapping to build a political career. Even key activists in the effort to bring Gilad home have called his father’s move cynical, inappropriate and premature.

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Schalit said he was not surprised by the attacks and that he had fully considered the ramifications of his decision before accepting Yacimovich’s invitation to run.

“The voters can decide whether or not what I’m doing is right,” he said. “I understand the criticism, which was expected and is legitimate. The timing of my decision is a result of the current political situation, which created a window of opportunity to run that may not have existed in a year or two.”

Schalit rejected charges that Likud MK Ayoub Kara had leveled in The Jerusalem Post that his decision to run in an opposition party was a “slap in the face to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu” after the heavy price Netanyahu had paid to bring Gilad back.

“I am thankful to Netanyahu for bringing Gilad home, and I have expressed that to him on several occasions,” he said. “My running does not take away from the prime minister’s role in Gilad’s return. My views are different from those of the Likud.”

He described his views as social-democratic, in favor of a free economy that helps the weakest sectors, the rule of law, and protecting the courts. On the diplomatic issue, he said he supported two states for two peoples based on a historic compromise. He also said he wanted to improve the Knesset’s image in the eyes of Israelis.

He said his entrance into politics had nothing to do with former journalist Yair Lapid beginning his political career on Sunday. Schalit said his move had been planned before Lapid’s announcement and was the result of months of contemplation.

“It was a natural process after leading a large struggle that shifted from personal to public,” he said. “For more than five years, I saw the values of Israeli society, what things are run well in our country and what needs to be improved.”

He revealed that his wife Aviva had initially opposed his decision to run, but later accepted it. He promised not to involve Gilad or his other children in his race.

Asked about his son’s health, he said: “He is recovering. He will soon go to an IDF medical committee, get released from the army, and then decide his future. He got delayed for five years, and now he is looking forward to his future.”

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