Schalits ready to politicize campaign for Gilad's release

Netanyahu and Hamas spar over identity of European mediator for captive soldier’s freedom; Schalit spokesman to J'lem: Accept the deal.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
April 21, 2011 00:43
3 minute read.
Captured soldier Gilad Schalit in video

Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

Activists working to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit will consider changing their tactics and adopting a more political approach if they do not see results by the end of the Pessah holiday, Schalit campaign chairman Shimshon Liebman said Wednesday.

Members of Schalit’s family and officials leading the campaign will hold a key meeting immediately after the holiday in which Liebman will recommend changing their strategy, which he believes has not been tough enough. He said the current approach had been exhausted and had failed to convince Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take action.

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“It seems we require a major change to the campaign,” Liebman wrote. “The struggle cannot be based solely on displays of solidarity. We have the sympathy already. We need to consider the situation now and ask what might persuade the prime minister to make a decision. We’ll need to operate on a more political track, speak a more political language and address political issues. In our country, doing what we have done so far just isn’t enough.”

Liebman declined to elaborate when asked what he meant by using political tactics, but said that pending the approval of the family, the campaign’s language should be changed to one that politicians understand better. Officials close to the campaign have suggested blocking roads, staging strikes, and even forming a new political party.

“We have no political agenda other than getting Gilad Schalit freed, but that does not preclude us from taking action,” Liebman said.

The changes are being considered following Netanyahu’s decision to appoint senior Mossad official David Meidan as his new point man on the Schalit issue, and amid confusion over who would mediate between Israel and Hamas.

The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Tuesday that a new European mediator had been appointed to replace Gerhard Conrad of Germany.

Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk appeared to confirm the change in interviews with Arabic networks, but Netanyahu released a statement denying that Conrad had been replaced.

“Israel is serious about bringing Gilad Schalit home,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to work on the basis of the proposal that Gerhard Conrad constructed with Hamas.”

Hamas has accused Conrad of taking Israel’s side too often in negotiations, and Marzouk hinted that a European country had offered to take over the mediation.

He declined to say whether that country was France, where Schalit has citizenship.

The kidnapped soldier’s father, Noam, said the French had volunteered in the past to upgrade their role in the effort to bring about Schalit’s release, and downplayed the statements by Hamas as “not serious.”

Liebman rejected an idea by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom that instead of accepting Hamas’s demand to release more than 1,000 prisoners, including hundreds with blood on their hands, Netanyahu instead offer to release 2,000 prisoners, but none with blood on their hands.

Shalom said that if a list of such prisoners were to be published, their families would put so much pressure on Hamas that it would be compelled to accept the deal and release Schalit.

“We presented that idea in Gilad’s first year in captivity,” Liebman said. “After five years, I doubt it would work. Hamas hasn’t changed the deal in five years. The only way to bring Gilad home is to accept the deal.”


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