Noam Schalit to meet with officials in DC to exploit 'window of opportunity'

Soldier's father hopes the new US administration and Congress can make a difference in securing his son's release.

noam Schalit cap 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
noam Schalit cap 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Schalit is hoping that the new US administration and Congress can make a difference in securing the release of his son Gilad Schalit from Gazan captivity and is due in Washington Thursday to make his case to key officials. "There's a kind of new window of opportunity," Schalit told The Jerusalem Post by phone from New York, where he visited Wednesday. "We believe that the new administration is going to take a more important role in the Middle East now," he said, referring to the Obama administration's stress on playing an active role in the region and making progress toward Arab-Israeli peace. Schalit said he would ask the US officials he meets to bring up the case of his son, an IDF soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas while on duty on the border with Gaza in 2006, "in every contact and in every channel" the US uses in its Middle East diplomatic effort. Schalit is scheduled to meet with members of Congress and State Department officials and is meeting with American Jewish leaders during his stay in New York. Schalit said he would like the US Jewish community to develop an action committee to work for his son's release. The idea is to make the soldier's case a major focus of the Jewish community's conversation with members of Congress and the administration. Schalit said he was hesitant to make any predictions about success, even with a new approach in Washington. "We have had so many ups and downs," he said. "We are trying to make our best efforts." While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to announce a replacement for special envoy Ofer Dekel in negotiations for a prisoner exchange that would include Schalit, Egyptian officials say they continue to deal with Hamas on the issue. Cairo is still working with Hamas "to make them more flexible..., to try to get them to understand the situation more, and to make the gap smaller between the two parties," an Egyptian official said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. Dekel was not only a professional but a respectable person who Egyptian official said he was proud to work with. They were confident that Israel would appoint someone who was just as capable, he added. "We don't have a timeline on this issue, but we are working to reach [a deal], to bring Schalit back to his parents and to release the Palestinian prisoners as well," he said. Brenda Gazzar contributed to this report.