Ben-Eliezer visits Schalit protest tent in J'lem

Infrastructures minister urges PM to bring issue to cabinet; Noam Schalit: Hamas won't get better deal.

Gilad Schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Public officials continued to meet the parents of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit at their protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Residence on Wednesday, the latest being Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Ben-Eliezer called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to quickly summon his ministers to make a decision on a prisoner swap deal. "We have reached zero hour, there is no time for discussions or bargaining," he said after meeting Noam and Aviva Schalit. "I am aware of the moral argument about the price and other ethical considerations, but unfortunately, such questions have not yet been raised around a table of ministers." The infrastructures minister called on Olmert to convene his cabinet as soon as he could, even if it meant this Saturday night. "If we need to make a decision, I have no doubt that the majority will be in favor [of a deal]," he said. "I believe that the [negotiation] process has been exhausted," Ben-Eliezer continued. "The government, of which I am a member, must not clear the table without Gilad returning home." Following the meeting, Noam Schalit said Ben-Eliezer's words spoke for themselves. "It's still not too late," he said. "It's really time to decide. We don't have another week or month." Schalit also appealed to Hamas and called on the group to end the issue and free Gilad. "I suggest that Hamas hurry and close the deal with the existing conditions, because they will not get a better deal than the one we are hearing of," he insisted. "I don't know who will be in the next government and who will be the next prime minister, and Hamas needs to understand that the window of opportunity is closing," continued the captured solder's father. He also took a swipe at Olmert. "I have heard ministers say that the issue is in the prime minister's hands and he is supposed to decide and bring it for a cabinet vote," he said. "Unfortunately, he is dealing with the issue, but he is not bringing results or a breakthrough." Earlier, Noam said that he was "worried" the task of freeing his son would be transferred to the next government. "This feels pressing," he told Army Radio, "and it is worrying that the government may be replaced and the issue of Gilad may pass on to the next government." Noam also thanked the family of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad for their support, saying, "There's no one like the Arads, who can understand what we're going through and tell us what we should do or what we ought to do that they hadn't done."