IDF reservists delivered a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday, in which they pleaded for him to conclude a deal with Hamas for the release of abducted tank gunner Gilad Schalit.
“Gilad Schalit’s life is in your hands, as is his future and that of his families,” the reservists wrote.
“We are turning to you one more time to act responsibly and to make the brave decision that is required here,” the letter said.
The government could bring Schalit home, but has not done so, the reservists said.
They blamed Netanyahu for reneging on past agreements reached with Hamas through third party negotiators, which would have secured the release of Schalit, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006.
Finally, they noted that the prime minister has refused to meet with them, and asked that he do so.
“You don’t have to agree with us, but you have a responsibility to meet with us and to hear our opinion,” the letter said.
Reservist Tzachi Leon said the refusal to meet with them showed a lack of leadership on Netanyahu’s part.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the letter was personally received by Natan Eshel, Netanyahu’s chief of staff.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a response to the reservists’ letter in which it defended the government’s efforts on behalf of the young man.
As soon as he was sworn in, “Netanyahu instructed all of the security services to make every effort to bring Gilad Schalit back home alive and well,” said the statement.
It credited these efforts with Hamas’s decision to release a short video last year, in which Schalit’s family was able to see him for the first time since he was taken captive.
“In December 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu consulted with the seven-member ministerial forum and authorized the German-Egyptian proposal for a deal. The prime minister’s decision was based on a proper balance between two principles: Israeli readiness to go far towards bringing Gilad Schalit back home, and preventing dangerous Palestinian prisoners from being released to places from which they could attack Israeli citizens.
“Since the end of December until now, Hamas has not responded to the proposal of the German-Egyptian mediation, which continues to be active,” the statement read.
For Schalit to be released, “it is important to act – inter alia – with sagacity, patience, equanimity and iron nerves,” the statement read.
The reservists were not satisfied with the response nor with the fact that the Prime Minister’s Office refused to sign for the letter when they arrived at 11 a.m., Leon said.
“We were shocked,” he said. The [Prime Minister’s Office’s] signature is important, because it enters it into a formal record, he added.
“We are speechless. These are people who have risked their lives for the nation, and in some cases have lost limbs,” Leon said.
As of 5 p.m., he and the other nine reservists were still in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, in hopes of receiving a signature confirming that their letter was accepted.
Ten of the 30 signatories to the letter who arrived outside the office had also hoped to be allowed to address the cabinet, which held its weekly meeting that morning, but their plea was denied.
A close friend of Tami Arad also sent a plea for Schalit’s release to
Netanyahu’s wife, Sara. Tami’s husband, IAF navigator Ron Arad,
disappeared in 1988 after he had been held captive in Lebanon for two
Separately, in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence, the Campaign to
Free Gilad Schalit set up a Seder table in the protest tent that has
been there for over a year.
They are operating under the slogan that while for Jews around the
world “this night is different from all other nights,” for the Schalit
family and for Gilad “this night is no different from any other.”
As in past years, the Schalit family has asked people to set an empty
plate and chair at their Seder, to symbolize Gilad’s absence.