We are leaving Gilad Schalit for dead, MK Cabel says

Knesset Lobby for Gilad Schalit members demand PM release Palestinian prisoners to secure kidnapped soldier's return to Israel alive.

Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Gilad Schalit in video 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Members of the Knesset Lobby for Gilad Schalit demanded on Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu release Palestinian prisoners to secure Schalit’s return to Israel alive.
In a motion for the Knesset agenda on the topic of “Five years since Gilad Schalit was captured,” MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), one of the lobby’s founders, said that if a deal to release the soldier isn’t struck soon, Schalit will die in captivity.
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“Excuse me for using such strong language, but a year ago, I was against a [prisoner exchange] deal,” Cabel said.
“Suddenly I realized – we are leaving Gilad Schalit for dead. There’s no other way to describe it.”
“Gilad Schalit is in captivity for five years,” he added. “I didn’t realize how long that was until I saw five-year-old children going to kindergarten.”
According to Cabel, “there is no other way to act than to pass a law for Schalit’s release. Otherwise, he will die in captivity.”
Likud MK Miri Regev called for Israel to worsen conditions for Hamas prisoners as long as the terrorist group does not allow the Red Cross to visit Schalit.
She cited a report that Hamas does not see any hope in the negotiations for Schalit’s release, and plans to make the soldier “disappear.”
“Do you know what Gilad Schalit’s disappearance means?” Regev asked. “We should make Palestinian prisoners disappear. Not just from their families, but from their lawyers and from the Red Cross.”
“In no other country do terrorists receive such VIP treatment as in Israel,” the Likud MK added. “It can’t be that they’ll enjoy themselves in prison while Gilad Schalit sits for five years while no one knows what is happening to him, or to Ron Arad.”
“The right thing to do is to worsen the conditions of security prisoners,” Regev said, adding: “Look at Jonathan Pollard! He isn’t even a terrorist, and his conditions are worse.”
Regev also advocated releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit.
“I know it is not easy, but we have a responsibility to the thousands of people who enlist in the IDF every year,” she explained. “If we’re afraid that they’ll return to terror, the Shin Bet and other agencies will take care of them, as they have in the past.”
“A child is not born with a price tag,” MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) told the plenum.
“We have been discussing the right price, but Gilad is in captivity five years already. We have to give answers to his parents, and to the thousands of parents who send their children to the army each year – but we don’t have an answer. We failed.”
Zuaretz said the government has not put enough pressure on other countries, which could place the responsibility for Schalit’s captivity on the Palestinian Authority, and demand that the Red Cross be allowed to visit the soldier.
In reference to releasing Palestinian terrorists from prison, Zuaretz said: “We can deal with them later – the first step is to bring Gilad home.”
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan represented Netanyahu in the discussion, saying that the prime minister has asked every world leader he met with to help secure Schalit’s return.
“The prime minister understands the pain and frustration, because when it comes to bringing results, we failed,” Erdan said.
Erdan also explained that the government’s “most generous offer – perhaps the most generous offer ever given in a prisoner exchange” was rejected because Israel would not agree to allow released Palestinian terrorists to return to the West Bank.
When asked whether the government would ask the PA to help release Schalit, Erdan said: “The Palestinian Authority is more moderate aalek,” using a slang word for “as if.”
The minister also said that he supports Regev’s suggestion to worsen conditions for Palestinian prisoners, and proposed a similar bill in the past.
At the end of the discussion, 11 MKs voted in favor of adding the topic to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee agenda.
None opposed or abstained.