Noam Schalit: Goodwill gestures useless

Soldier's father says previous prisoner releases didn't help; Ramon: Hamas has to be flexible.

noam schalit new 224 88 (photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
noam schalit new 224 88
(photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
The Schalit family strongly opposes any additional release of Palestinian prisoners, unless it is conditioned on making progress in securing the release of Gilad, who has been held in Gaza by his captors for over two years. Noam Schalit, Gilad's father, outlined his family's stance following reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was set to ask Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a meeting on Sunday afternoon for additional prisoner releases. "Since Gilad was captured, more than two years ago, Israel has released approximately one thousand Palestinian prisoners, in several goodwill gestures. But these gestures have not pushed Gilad's release even by a millimeter, and have even increased the appetite of Hamas and its demands," Schalit said. Last week, when Israel released 198 Palestinian prisoners, Schalit blamed the government for making empty gestures which fail to advance the release of his son. "Previous gestures did not bring about any movement on the ground. I do not know what Hamas thinks of all this, but based on past experience, nothing has changed regarding the Gilad situation." Also Sunday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon convened a special ministerial committee to draw up a list of 450 security prisoners Israel is willing to release in an Egyptian-mediated prisoner swap with Hamas in return for Schalit, who last week marked his third birthday in captivity in Gaza. After the meeting Ramon commented that "if Hamas can't also be flexible with their demands, we won't be able to reach an agreement." The London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted Hamas sources on Saturday saying that the movement is now demanding more than 1,000 prisoners in return for Schalit. Khaled Abu Toameh and Mark Weiss contributed to this report