Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, is expected to fly to Turkey early next week to hold a series of meetings designed to raise support among key Muslim clerics for his son's release. Deputy Minister for the Negev and Galilee Ayoub Kara's (Likud) office confirmed to The Jerusalem Post Thursday that Kara had received the go-ahead to include Schalit as part of an interfaith delegation attending a conference in Turkey next Tuesday.
Schalit is scheduled to hold a fact-to-face meeting with Adnan Oktar, a prominent and controversial Islamic theologian, better known by his pen name Harun Yahya. Oktar, who is an outspoken opponent of Zionism is believed to have the ear of a number of Middle Eastern leaders including several Hamas officials as well as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During the meetings, said officials close to Kara, Schalit will ask for Oktar's assistance in securing the release of his son. In addition to Oktar, the Israeli delegation - including Schalit - is expected to meet with a second, equally influential Muslim figure.
"I am ready to meet with Satan in order to rescue Gilad," said Kara. "These two people have great influence in the Islamic world. Each competes for who has the most in the Islamic world and they have influence on the radical organizations as well as in Iran. Because Hamas's backround is fundamentalist, those who can speak to them are religious leaders. We may be able to achieve results not by trade, but more by appealing to the moral, spiritual, ideological basis."
Kara was invited to lead the Israeli interfaith delegation earlier this week, in the shadow of worsening ties between Jerusalem and Ankara. Kara told the Post
that his invitation - and his attendance - was natural, and important. "I am known as a pro-Israel figure, even if I am not Jewish. I have a good ability to represent Israel at such a forum."
When Schalit heard of Kara's visit, he came to Jerusalem Wednesday to meet with the deputy minister, and the two agreed that if the conference organizers agreed, the best plan of action would be for Schalit to personally attend the conference. In addition to the face-to-face meeting with Oktar, Schalit is also slated to raise the subject of his son's captivity before a panel discussion.
Joining Schalit and Kara at the conference are a broad spectrum of religious leaders from various communities living in Israel, including Tekoa-based Rabbi Menahem Fruman, Sheikh Amin Kabalan, the second highest ranking sheikh in the Druze community, Dimitri Mussa of the Christian community and Yefet Tzadaka, a senior figure in the Samaritan community as well as Muslim and Beduin Muslim leaders.
Kara said that the conference is being held under the auspices of the liberal Islamic movement in Turkey, a movement that prides itself on its pro-Western and pro-democracy stance. The deputy minister added that the inclusion of an Israeli delegation during such a crucial juncture in Israeli-Turkish relations could benefit Israel's position and offer an opportunity to present a multi-cultural face of Israel to the world.