Shortly after greeting kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit at the Tel Nof Air Force base with a hug and a salute, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that if any of the 477 terrorists freed for his release return to terrorism, “they do so at their own risk.”
Netanyahu, in a short address to journalists at the entrance to the base, said that the country today was “united in joy and pain.”
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“Two and a half years ago I returned to the Prime Minister's Office. One of the central and complicated goals that I found on my desk was to bring back our kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit safe and sound. Today that mission was accomplished.”
Netanyahu, describing the considerations he weighed in making the
decision to agree to the 1,027 for 1 swap, said that as a soldier and
commander he was often sent on dangerous missions, but always knew that
if captured, the government would do everything in its power to bring
him and his comrades home.
“As a leader who sends IDF soldiers every day to defend Israeli
citizens, I believe that mutual responsibility is not just a slogan, but
one of the foundations of our existence here.”
Netanyahu said that Israel stood by two demands in the Egyptian-mediated
negotiations: that the Hamas leadership remain behind bars, and that
most of those released be deported or sent to Gaza to distance them from
their ability to cause more harm.
“Israel is different than its enemies, here we do not celebrate the
release of murderers, here we do not raise on our shoulders those who
cut off life. To the contrary, we believe in the sanctity of life. We
sanctify life. That is an ancient tradition of the Jewish people. “
Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed the media after meeting Schalit at Tel Nof,
saying the prisoner deal in which terrorists were released in order to
free the soldier brought with it many risks.
Barak stated that Israel would "act to prevent those risks from endangering Israeli citizens."
IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that the return of
Schalit was closure for the State of Israel, the IDF, the Schalit family
and Gilad himself.
"The IDF will be with the Schalit family the whole way," Gantz said.