Aviva Schalit: 'Don't abandon my son'

Netanyahu to meet family; PM asks Bill Clinton to be envoy to Hamas.

Schalit march en ruote to jerusalem 311 (photo credit: AP)
Schalit march en ruote to jerusalem 311
(photo credit: AP)
Aviva Schalit implored Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night not to confuse the specific imperative to save her son Gilad from captivity in Gaza with the wider fate of the conflict with the Palestinians.
“The Israel-Palestinian conflict does not begin and end with Gilad,” Aviva told 15,000 people who gathered in the capital’s Independence Park for a rally on behalf of her son.
Sakharov, Elena Bonner and Gilad Schalit
POW: ‘Even one day in captivity is a long time’
The event marked the end of an 11-day trek from the Schalits’ home in Mitzpe Hila in the Upper Galilee. They left on June 27 and rested on Shabbat.
The other 11 days they marched, often accompanied by thousands of people. Now they plan to sit in front of the prime minister’s home until he finds a way to free Schalit.
Netanyahu is set to meet with the family on Friday, upon his return from Washington.
In New York Thursday, Netanyahu suggested to former US president Bill Clinton that he serve as an emissary to Hamas in order to facilitate the release of Schalit. He said that Clinton’s success in freeing the US journalists captured in North Korea showed that he had an ability to carry out such missions.
The prime minister has also said that he would release 1,000 security prisoners for Schalit, including 450 who belong to Hamas, but has balked at Hamas’s demand to free terrorists he considers highly dangerous, because of concerns that they would kill more Israelis.
On Thursday night, Aviva Schalit said that there were security assessments according to which the IDF could neutralize that threat.
Aviva: 'Do not hang  our struggle with the Palestinians on my son'
Netanyahu had made it seem as if keeping her son in captivity was somehow related to the risks associated with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, she said.
“Do not transform my son into the only person on whom to hang the risks and dangers of our struggle with the Palestinians. Do not transform the question of his life into a question on which the fate of the nation appears to hang."
“The nation is stronger, and we are citizens are stronger, thanks to our values,” Aviva Schalit said.
In the four years that her family has waited to see their son, she said, hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners had been released, including scores who belong to Hamas. During that time the government had given up, again and again, bargaining chips that could have been used to pressure Hamas, she said.
Now, there appeared to be no choice but to release terrorists for him, she said.
The thousands of people who had supported her family on their long journey to the capital had sent a clear message to Netanyahu, said Aviva: “After four years, the time for excuses is over.”
Schalit's mother: 'Heat made march difficult - but it's more difficult for Gilad'
Those who had marched through the summer heat, and felt their feet ache, thought only one thing, said Aviva. “It is more difficult for Gilad.”
She said that her son had been held in a Hamas cellar for 1,474 days. “Four years of hell is too much,” she said.
To the prime minister, she said, “Don’t abandon my son... Do not ignore our call. Do not underestimate our values.
“Work boldly for his release. I believe that we have a strong state, based on moral values. Parents who send their children to the army – like I sent my my older son, Yoel, my son Gilad and his sister Hadas, who is serving today – have an unwritten pact with the state, a pact on which the existence of a healthy, moral society is based. A society that displays public courage won’t allow its leaders to abandon a live soldier.”
The family was joined in the march on Thursday by Yuval Arad, the daughter of IAF navigator Lt.- Col. Ron Arad, who disappeared in 1988 before Israel could secure a deal for his release from captivity in Lebanon.
Eli Yishai joins Schalit march
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) also joined the march. He told Israel Radio that such marches were the right way to go about securing Schalit’s release. He called for the establishment of clear rules about the price that would be paid for prisoners of war in order to reduce the risk of future kidnappings.
Yishai added that he would be willing to talk with Hamas if it would help secure the soldier’s release.
Those who opposed the Schalit campaign held a number of small demonstrations in Jerusalem on the outskirts of the march, at which they urged the government not to endanger the lives of Israelis by releasing terrorists.
At the Schalit rally, however, a number of former captives and a terror victim said they felt the Hamas price was worth paying.
Among the speakers at the rally was a former captive from the Air France plane which was hijacked to Entebbe in Uganda in 1976.
Shai Gross said that he owed his life to Netanyahu’s brother Yoni, who was killed as he led the rescue mission to free him and the other hostages. “My son was named for [Yoni] and without him, my son would not have come into this world,” said this speaker. “Go forward, Mr. Prime Minister, and release Gilad. The nation is behind you.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.