(photo credit: )
Israel should release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, said Noam Shalit, the captured soldier's father, on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters outside the family's home in Mitzpe Hila, Shalit said that if the government had discussed releasing Palestinian prisoners before his son's capture there was no reason it shouldn't consider their release now.
Shalit's comments came as the London-based Arabic paper Al-Hayat reported that Hamas had lowered its demands for his son's release.
"I know that releasing prisoners was up for discussion as a gesture before the incident, so there's no reason it shouldn't be up for discussion after the incident as well for the sake of releasing a soldier who was sent to the battlefront by the state," he said.
Eventually, Israel would have to negotiate, he said. "Everything has a price. I don't think there would be any progress toward releasing Gilad without a price. That wouldn't suit the Middle East."
Asked by a reporter what Israel was waiting for, Shalit replied: "Good question." He also raised the possibility that he wasn't being told about all attempts to gain his son's release. "I want to believe that there are secret channels that we're not being told about for obvious reasons," he said.
Shalit reiterated his assertion that he would be willing to meet his son's kidnappers, but questioned if that would be useful. "I have nothing to propose or to offer them, but to talk to them would be possible. In the end, we will have to talk to those organizations either directly or indirectly."
He said, however, that the kidnappers' demands would have to be reasonable. "I call upon the militant organizations to proceed toward an agreement, to give a serious offer to the [Egyptian mediators], a serious offer that the State of Israel can deal [with] and live with," he said.
In response to a question regarding IDF operations in Gaza, Shalit said: "Every new element that enters the arena and its surroundings raises the concern of greater danger. Of course we are more and more concerned about Gilad's fate."
Shalit spoke after a visit by Brig.-Gen. Elazar Stern, chief of the IDF's Human Resources Corps, who visited the family to show support.
Earlier Thursday, Shalit told Israel Radio that he hoped his son's captors would treat Gilad as Israel treated its prisoners. He also said he hoped they would honor a religious edict issued by an Egyptian cleric declaring that Gilad Shalit must not be killed while he could be used as a bartering chip for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Shalit also took part Thursday in a three-way conversation on "All for Peace," a radio station based in east Jerusalem run by Israelis and Palestinians, with Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeideh and Syria-based Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal.
"Let's end this situation as fast as possible in order to prevent needless suffering, for my family and also for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering daily [due to] the results of this kidnapping, and they're innocent. Why do they need to suffer? We can finish this, we can finish today," Shalit said.
In response to a question by Shalit as to whether the groups holding his son had brought a list of serious demands to an Egyptian delegation in Gaza, Abu Obeideh replied, "Yes, of course."