Dekel sent to Cairo for Schalit talks

Noam Schalit "worried" affair will pass on to next gov't; PM's wife says she identifies with struggle.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
March 10, 2009 13:08
Dekel sent to Cairo for Schalit talks

Peres meets Noam Schalit 248.88. (photo credit: GPO)

As Noam and Aviva Schalit spent their third day in a protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israel was apparently stepping up efforts to secure the release of their son Gilad, dispatching senior negotiator Ofer Dekel to Cairo. Dekel was reportedly holding intensive negotiations with Egyptian mediators in a bid to bring about Schalit's release before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term. Commenting on the imminent end of the current government's term, Noam said Wednesday morning that he was "worried" the task of freeing his son would be transferred to the next government. "This feels pressing," he told Army Radio, "and it is worrying that the government will be replaced and the issue of Gilad will pass on to the next government." Noam also thanked the family of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad for their support, saying, "There's no one like the Arads, who can understand what we're going through and tell us what we should do or what we ought to do that they hadn't done." Meanwhile, Aliza Olmert, the prime minister's wife, told Gilad's parents on Tuesday afternoon that she supported their battle to free their son from his Hamas captors in Gaza. She invited Noam and Aviva to her Jerusalem home, after they had sat outside it in a protest tent for three days, to assure them all efforts were being made to release Gilad. "There is no wall of alienation between the Prime Minister's Residence and the protest tent by its entrance. I identify completely with the struggle to release Gilad, and were I not a witness to the intensive efforts being invested for his return, I would certainly go to the protest tent myself," she told Noam, Aviva and Gilad's grandfather Tzvi Schalit. The trio had walked quietly to her house from the tent they have pitched as part of their last-ditch effort to persuade Olmert to agree to swap Hamas security prisoners for their son before he leaves office. For the past three days, thousands of supporters from all over the country have streamed through the tent to shake the Schalits' hands and offer them their best wishes. Some handed them Purim gift baskets or poems, and one girl, Raz Blumfeld, eight, sang them a song. A small group of costumed Orthodox revelers stood outside the tent at night and read the Megilat Esther out loud. Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to hear the megila read nearby, did not stop at the tent, although he did speak with Noam on the telephone. During the hour-long meeting, Aliza Olmert told Noam and Aviva Schalit: "I see the widespread public support for Gilad's return and the exceptional solidarity that this struggle has caused. I am a silent witness to the intensive, daily efforts to bring Gilad back home. "The fact that Gilad is still not with us, and that moves to bring him back home have yet to be completed, do not reflect a paralysis in the system... Most of the measures are being carried out discretely, and this is in order to achieve the goal." "I hope that it will be possible for the prime minister to complete this step in his remaining time in office," she added. Noam and Aviva spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting. "We sat with Mrs. Olmert and shared our feelings with her, and she shared her feelings as a mother and grandmother with us and expressed her empathy with us and our struggle," Noam said. The trio also walked to Beit Hanassi for lunch, where they received a Purim gift basket and President Shimon Peres's best wishes. "You bring out the strongest emotions of the population - a love for the army and responsibility for the fate of every soldier. The proof of this lies in the fact that all segments of the population have come to visit you in the tent. That's the strongest and most authentic expression of this deep feeling," Peres told Gilad's parents and grandfather. Peres invited each of them to regard the president's residence as permanently open to them. "We will always be ready to receive you here," he said. "My heart is with you. The hearts of all of Israel are with you." As they dined with Peres, he updated them on his most recent discussions with the prime minister, negotiator Ofer Dekel and senior intelligence agents on efforts being made to free Gilad. As he left Beit Hanassi, Noam Schalit said he had the impression that Peres fully understood the urgency of bringing home a soldier who had spent so long in captivity. "The president sees the members of the public who have come [to the tent] and is impressed by the wide public support we are getting," Noam said. "The president supports Gilad's release and understands the need, the importance and the value in freeing an IDF soldier who has been in captivity for three years." On Monday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Noam in the tent. On Tuesday night, Shas chairman Eli Yishai came as well. His comments to the media were interrupted by protesters outside, who shouted, "We want Gilad home now!" Yishai said, "What you hear is the cry of all of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora." In the 989 days since Gilad was kidnapped by Gazan terrorists, "not enough had been done" to bring him home, he said. Yishai, who supported the deal to trade live terrorists to Hizbullah for the bodies of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, said he was ready to pay a heavy price for Gilad. "We are ready to pay a lot to see him return," Yishai said. Hamas has asked for 1,400 security prisoners in exchange for Gilad, including 450 who have been involved in terrorist acts that killed Israelis. Almagor-The Terror Victims Association is among those who have argued against such a deal, which it said would endanger more Israeli lives. Terrorists who were released in past deals have killed some 180 Israelis, Almagor has said. But on Tuesday, the protest it held on the corner opposite the Schalit tent consisted of Yossi Mendellevich, whose son Yuval, 13, was among 17 killed by a suicide bombing attack on bus No. 37 in Haifa in 2003. He said his group lacked the resources the Schalits had. He said he wanted to see Gilad freed, but not at such a heavy price. The Campaign to Free Schalit said it had collected at least 45,000 signatures of people who supported such a release. Among those who called for the government to accept Hamas's offer were relatives of other soldiers kidnapped in the past, including Eldad Regev's father, Tzvi, and Haim Avraham, whose son Benny was among three soldiers kidnapped in the Mount Dov region in October 2000. Their bodies and businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum were returned to Israel in January 2004 in return for 30 Arab nationals and 400 Palestinian prisoners. "To the prime minister and the leaders, I'd like to say that we don't have time. Too much time has passed since the kidnapping, and it is not on our side," Regev said. The parents of Nachshon Wachsman - an IDF soldier who was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1994, also came to the tent on Tuesday to lend their voice to the Schalits' cause. "What we went through for a week, they have been going through for three years," Yehuda Wachsman said. "I don't know how they're holding on." Esther Wachsman said, "I breath, sleep and dream Gilad Schalit. I have also spoken to the prime minister about the issue." Yehuda said he and his wife had come to embrace the Schalit family and identify with their pain and suffering. "Words cannot describe the pain the family is going through," he said. "As far as they are concerned, everything must be done to bring Gilad back. Anything they do to save their son is legitimate." Although she did not come to the tent, Tami Arad, whose husband Ron disappeared in May 1988 after he had been held captive in Lebanon since October 1986 - called on the government to conclude a prisoner swap for Gilad, including the release of 450 terrorists with "blood on their hands." She told Army Radio that she knew from bitter experience what could happen if one waited too long to conclude a prisoner swap. In the case of her husband, the government had also balked at the price asked for his release. "If there was another alternative, Gilad would be here today," she said. "And who can promise that there will be someone to return in three years. Time is critical. Every day that he remains in captivity works against him." "We teach our children that that it is their obligation to join the army, but in return the nation has the same obligation to insure their return. If we wait another couple of years and the price goes down to 380 [terrorists], will we feel better?" she asked. "Today, I understand what once was not clear to me at the start, that to return a captive, you have to wage a campaign. If one sits home quietly, nothing happens," she said. In an interview with London-based newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk denied reports he had received a videotape of Gilad when he visited Gaza late last month. Also contrary to reports, he said he had not been given a letter from the captive soldier. "I have no information on Schalit," he was quoted in the interview as saying. "I don't know if he's alive or dead. The factions aren't willing to give any information on him." The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida had reported on Monday that Marzouk was given a tape and a letter by Ahmad Jabari, the commander of Hamas's Izzadin Kassam Brigades, during his short trip to the Strip after attending Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks in Egypt.atching senior negotiator Ofer Dekel to Cairo. Dekel was reportedly holding intensive negotiations with Egyptian mediators in a bid to bring about Schalit's release before the end of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term. Commenting on the imminent end of the current government's term, Noam said Wednesday morning that he was "worried" the task of freeing his son would be transferred to the next government. "This feels pressing," he told Army Radio, "and it is worrying that the government will be replaced and the issue of Gilad will pass on to the next government." Noam also thanked the family of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad for their support, saying, "There's no one like the Arads, who can understand what we're going through and tell us what we should do or what we ought to do that they hadn't done." Meanwhile, Aliza Olmert, the prime minister's wife, told Gilad's parents on Tuesday afternoon that she supported their battle to free their son from his Hamas captors in Gaza. She invited Noam and Aviva to her Jerusalem home, after they had sat outside it in a protest tent for three days, to assure them all efforts were being made to release Gilad. "There is no wall of alienation between the Prime Minister's Residence and the protest tent by its entrance. I identify completely with the struggle to release Gilad, and were I not a witness to the intensive efforts being invested for his return, I would certainly go to the protest tent myself," she told Noam, Aviva and Gilad's grandfather Tzvi Schalit. The trio had walked quietly to her house from the tent they have pitched as part of their last-ditch effort to persuade Olmert to agree to swap Hamas security prisoners for their son before he leaves office. For the past three days, thousands of supporters from all over the country have streamed through the tent to shake the Schalits' hands and offer them their best wishes. Some handed them Purim gift baskets or poems, and one girl, Raz Blumfeld, eight, sang them a song. A small group of costumed Orthodox revelers stood outside the tent at night and read the Megilat Esther out loud. Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to hear the megila read nearby, did not stop at the tent, although he did speak with Noam on the telephone. During the hour-long meeting, Aliza Olmert told Noam and Aviva Schalit: "I see the widespread public support for Gilad's return and the exceptional solidarity that this struggle has caused. I am a silent witness to the intensive, daily efforts to bring Gilad back home. "The fact that Gilad is still not with us, and that moves to bring him back home have yet to be completed, do not reflect a paralysis in the system... Most of the measures are being carried out discretely, and this is in order to achieve the goal." "I hope that it will be possible for the prime minister to complete this step in his remaining time in office," she added. Noam and Aviva spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting. "We sat with Mrs. Olmert and shared our feelings with her, and she shared her feelings as a mother and grandmother with us and expressed her empathy with us and our struggle," Noam said. The trio also walked to Beit Hanassi for lunch, where they received a Purim gift basket and President Shimon Peres's best wishes. "You bring out the strongest emotions of the population - a love for the army and responsibility for the fate of every soldier. The proof of this lies in the fact that all segments of the population have come to visit you in the tent. That's the strongest and most authentic expression of this deep feeling," Peres told Gilad's parents and grandfather. Peres invited each of them to regard the president's residence as permanently open to them. "We will always be ready to receive you here," he said. "My heart is with you. The hearts of all of Israel are with you." As they dined with Peres, he updated them on his most recent discussions with the prime minister, negotiator Ofer Dekel and senior intelligence agents on efforts being made to free Gilad. As he left Beit Hanassi, Noam Schalit said he had the impression that Peres fully understood the urgency of bringing home a soldier who had spent so long in captivity. "The president sees the members of the public who have come [to the tent] and is impressed by the wide public support we are getting," Noam said. "The president supports Gilad's release and understands the need, the importance and the value in freeing an IDF soldier who has been in captivity for three years." On Monday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Noam in the tent. On Tuesday night, Shas chairman Eli Yishai came as well. His comments to the media were interrupted by protesters outside, who shouted, "We want Gilad home now!" Yishai said, "What you hear is the cry of all of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora." In the 989 days since Gilad was kidnapped by Gazan terrorists, "not enough had been done" to bring him home, he said. Yishai, who supported the deal to trade live terrorists to Hizbullah for the bodies of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, said he was ready to pay a heavy price for Gilad. "We are ready to pay a lot to see him return," Yishai said. Hamas has asked for 1,400 security prisoners in exchange for Gilad, including 450 who have been involved in terrorist acts that killed Israelis. Almagor-The Terror Victims Association is among those who have argued against such a deal, which it said would endanger more Israeli lives. Terrorists who were released in past deals have killed some 180 Israelis, Almagor has said. But on Tuesday, the protest it held on the corner opposite the Schalit tent consisted of Yossi Mendellevich, whose son Yuval, 13, was among 17 killed by a suicide bombing attack on bus No. 37 in Haifa in 2003. He said his group lacked the resources the Schalits had. He said he wanted to see Gilad freed, but not at such a heavy price. The Campaign to Free Schalit said it had collected at least 45,000 signatures of people who supported such a release. Among those who called for the government to accept Hamas's offer were relatives of other soldiers kidnapped in the past, including Eldad Regev's father, Tzvi, and Haim Avraham, whose son Benny was among three soldiers kidnapped in the Mount Dov region in October 2000. Their bodies and businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum were returned to Israel in January 2004 in return for 30 Arab nationals and 400 Palestinian prisoners. "To the prime minister and the leaders, I'd like to say that we don't have time. Too much time has passed since the kidnapping, and it is not on our side," Regev said. The parents of Nachshon Wachsman - an IDF soldier who was kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1994, also came to the tent on Tuesday to lend their voice to the Schalits' cause. "What we went through for a week, they have been going through for three years," Yehuda Wachsman said. "I don't know how they're holding on." Esther Wachsman said, "I breath, sleep and dream Gilad Schalit. I have also spoken to the prime minister about the issue." Yehuda said he and his wife had come to embrace the Schalit family and identify with their pain and suffering. "Words cannot describe the pain the family is going through," he said. "As far as they are concerned, everything must be done to bring Gilad back. Anything they do to save their son is legitimate." Although she did not come to the tent, Tami Arad, whose husband, Ron, disappeared in May 1988 after he had been held captive in Lebanon since October 1986 - called on the government to conclude a prisoner swap for Gilad, including the release of 450 terrorists with "blood on their hands." She told Army Radio that she knew from bitter experience what could happen if one waited too long to conclude a prisoner swap. In the case of her husband, the government had also balked at the price asked for his release. "If there was another alternative, Gilad would be here today," she said. "And who can promise that there will be someone to return in three years. Time is critical. Every day that he remains in captivity works against him." "We teach our children that that it is their obligation to join the army, but in return the nation has the same obligation to insure their return. If we wait another couple of years and the price goes down to 380 [terrorists], will we feel better?" she asked. "Today, I understand what once was not clear to me at the start, that to return a captive, you have to wage a campaign. If one sits home quietly, nothing happens," Tami Arad said. In an interview with London-based newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk denied reports he had received a videotape of Schalit when he visited Gaza late last month. Also contrary to reports, he said he had not been given a letter from Gilad. "I have no information on Schalit," he was quoted in the interview as saying. "I don't know if he's alive or dead. The factions aren't willing to give any information on him." The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida had reported on Monday that Marzouk was given a tape and a letter by Ahmad Jabari, the commander of Hamas's Izzadin Kassam Brigades, during his short trip to the Strip after attending Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks in Egypt.


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