Aviva Schalit 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hundreds of people clustered together in the crisp wind outside the Schalit protest tent in Jerusalem on Saturday night to mark 1,700 days to Gilad Schalit's captivity in the hands of Hamas and call for his immediate release.
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“We are crying out to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, tucked away behind soundproof windows just behind us,” she said. “We've had it with all the aimless talk, explanations, excuses. Enough is enough. Israel knew in the past and will know in the future how to deal with terrorists if the need arises,” she added of the possibility of Israel releasing imprisoned terrorists with blood on their hands in return for Gilad. “It's been 1,700 days of an ongoing government failure to bring Gilad home, 1,700 days of indescribable suffering and solitude.”
The first speaker to address the crowd, estimated by the organizers at 1,200 people, was new Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, who was greeted with boos and heckling of protestors reminding her of her position as a member of the government. “Talk to your boss,” one woman yelled at her in referral to Defense Minister Ehud Barak when she expressed her desire to see Gilad swiftly released. "We can't have Gilad turn into another Ron Arad," she continued. "Many ministers, including myself, are willing to pay the high price of releasing terrorists with blood on their hands to fill our personal and national due to the soldier we sent to battle."
Author Meir Shalev likened Gilad's captivity to that of the biblical Joseph, who was thrown into a pit by his brothers. While the government didn't cast Gilad into captivity, Shalev said, it is its responsibility to bring him out of it.
“Gilad is not only a prisoner of the Hamas, but also of the government and its head's irresolution,” he said. “Netanyahu must act like a prime minister, and release him from the pit of his captivity.”
Former head of the Shin Bet Carmi Gillon reiterated that from a security point of view, Israel can deal with terrorists who might be freed as part of a deal with Hamas to release Gilad, especially in the current situation of good ties with the Palestinian Authority's security mechanism, but shifted the onus of freeing the captive soldier from the government to the IDF.
“The prime minister isn't the one to address, he can't even free himself from the burden of his National Security Advisor [Uzi Arad] and send him to London,” he said of Netanyahu's recent attempt to appoint Arad as ambassador to the UK that was shot down by Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman.
“We should aim our efforts at the General Staff and its head Benny Gantz,” Gillon said. “They should be the address for our private and public pressures, and should meet our eyes every morning and ask themselves – what can we do today to release Gilad Schalit?”