Noam Shalit criticizes gov't actions
"Israel should not reestablish deterrence at the expense of my son."
By YOAV APPEL, JPOST.COM STAFF
July 3, 2006 17:41
4 minute read.
noam shalit 298.88 ch 10.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, said Monday the family was unmoved by reports of an ultimatum that suggested his son may be harmed if Israel did not act.
Shalit said the family was trying to remain stable and not become excited or depressed about every rumor they heard.
A report published early Monday on an Internet Web site set a 6 a.mm deadline for Israel to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners or "pay the consequences."
"We're not paying attention to everything that is published on the Internet," Shalit said, standing outside his home alongside Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who visited the family briefly Monday.
"We feel bad all the time. This doesn't heighten or lower our feelings," Shalit told reporters.
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But in private interviews with Israeli television channels, Shalit's calm resolve showed signs of cracks. "As time progresses, it becomes harder and harder to cope," Noam told Channel 10.
In the first clear criticism of the government since his son Gilad was kidnapped eight days ago, Shalit said on Monday that it was "delusional" that the state of Israel would attempt to reestablish its deterrence at the expense of his son.
Shalit was responding to comments made by Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, who said Israel must restore its level of deterrence.
"Israel should have done that before the attack, when there was intelligence on tunnels being dug in the region. Despite this, we will not rush to conclusions and wait for the findings of the Eiland Commission [established to investigate the Kerem Shalom attack]," Shalit said.
Despite the fact that Israel's acceptance of the ultimatum could have raised the prospects of his son's return home, Shalit said he approved of Israel's response that it would not yield to blackmail.
When asked if he had confronted the government with the fact that hundreds of prisoners had been freed in return for Elhanan Tennenbaum and the bodies of the three IDF soldiers who were kidnapped by Hizbullah, Shalit only said, "The Tennenbaum precedent is known. I don't need to remind our leaders of the recent history."
Shalit said he'd asked Halutz to carry his wishes for his son's release to the political echelons. "As the number one soldier in Israel, I asked the chief of staff to represent Gilad's interests, as a soldier sent by the army, as soldier to soldier, that he represent Gilad's interest to Israel and to the decision-making echelons," Shalit said.
"Of course, when I say Gilad's interest, that is for him to return home, safely and healthy, as soon as possible."
Shalit said Halutz had updated him with "all the measures and channels that Israel is taking to try and resolve this crisis."
Halutz did not confirm a report in the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that an Egyptian delegation had visited Gilad Shalit where he was being held in Gaza, he said.
A soft-spoken Shalit said the family, although upset, was trying to maintain an even mood, and not get excited or depressed over every statement they heard. "We are trying not to rock from side-to-side," he said.
Halutz echoed a statement by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel would not heed the kidnapers' demands. "Israel's stance, and I agree with it, is that we will not give in to blackmail, to any ultimatum that terrorist groups give us."
"We see those who are holding Gilad, their commanders and those who sent them, here and in other places, as directly responsible for Gilad's health," he said. "We will do everything we can, everything possible, to free Gilad," he added.
Halutz refused to comment on whether attempts by third parties to resolve the crisis had failed. "I won't say if we did or didn't reach a dead end. I say, give us time out to assess the situation... we will consider everything and when we reach a conclusion we will act on it."
"I hope that the situation will end well, and soon," Halutz said. "But we have to assume that it will continue for a long time. We have to be prepared to act on all possibilities."
Outside the Shalit family home in the quiet Galilee town of Mitzpe Hilah, journalists clustered under shady areas in an attempt to escape the summer heat. There were signs many had begun to prepare for a long haul, including a hammock strung up in a neighbor's garden opposite the family home. Across the road, sunk into an already week-long routine, others catnapped on makeshift mattresses or sat on picnic chairs.
Satellite trucks were wedged in between parked cars along the narrow, and unusually busy, street.
Members of the Shalit family and visiting guests sat in their garden, below road level and mostly out of view from the eyes of the press.
Visitors to the family came and went, including staff and executives from Iscar, the multi-million dollar company where Noam Shalit is employed.
In another sign of an unwanted routine, someone had tacked up a small sign at the entrance to the family home saying visitors should not come between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and certainly not after 9 p.m.