Four years on, and Gilad's still in captivity

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schalit video 298 (photo credit: )
schalit video 298
(photo credit: )
With the family of Gilad Schalit stepping up pressure on decision-makers just before the fourth anniversary of his capture by Gaza-based gunmen, a multi-partisan group of powerful MKs established on Monday a Knesset lobby for the soldier’s release.
Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, joined the lobby’s founders – MKs Miri Regev (Likud), Eitan Cabel (Labor) and Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) – for the lobby’s kickoff event in the Knesset.
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“We cannot allow this to become a second Ron Arad case,” said Regev, referring to the air force navigator missing since 1986. “We will provide support for the prime minister in making difficult decisions.”
Regev insisted that the lobby was not designed to take an oppositional stance toward the prime minister, but rather to reinforce his ability to take steps to secure Schalit’s release.
She said that one main goal of establishing the Knesset lobby was to ensure that the topic of Schalit’s captivity remained on the public – and political – agenda.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, she added that she had maintained a close relationship with the Schalit family ever since Gilad was kidnapped during the time she served as IDF Spokeswoman, and that she believed the lobby’s co-founding by three MKs with extensive defense experience would add to its ability to push the issue forward.
“We cannot allow ourselves to arrive at the situation in which this becomes a second Ron Arad affair,” said Regev, referring to the fact that the navigator’s whereabouts have been unknown for years.
“The government of Israel must act at any price,” Cabel demanded.
“Where is our son Gilad?,” Noam Schalit asked the gathered MKs. “The Knesset is the legislative authority, but it is also the authority that provides oversight for the government, and that is part of the mandate of the Knesset and of members of Knesset regarding the government.
Sadly, two governments of Israel have failed to bring Gilad home. This is a poor reflection on a country that failed to fulfill its obligations to a soldier that it sent to the front lines.”
“The country that knows how to send airplanes thousands of kilometers away to rescue hostages also should know how to return one captive soldier home,” the elder Schalit continued. “We have already paid the price – Gilad has also paid – and the time has come for the country to pay before it is too late. We are going to march and we will sit outside of the prime minister’s house, and we will only go back home again together with Gilad!” Among those who attended the lobby’s first meeting were Hen Arad, brother of Ron Arad; Miki Goldwasser, mother of captured IDF soldier Ehud Goldwasser, whose body was returned to Israel by Hizbullah along with that of fellow-captured soldier Eldad Regev; and two men who were taken prisoner during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Just a short time before Noam Schalit lambasted the government for failing to bring home his son, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu argued that the country is “constantly looking for new ways to bring Gilad home safe and sound.”
Israel, Netanyahu said, had accepted a new offer made by the German mediator working to secure the captive IDF soldier’s release, but the ball was now in a reluctant Hamas’s court.
“The German mediator has presented an offer for the prisoner exchange deal, but Hamas has yet to answer,” Netanyahu told MKs during a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “While it’s not a simple offer, we have agreed to it.”
Netanyahu added that he had agreed to the release of 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Schalit. Four hundred and fifty were considered Hamas prisoners, while the remaining 550 were considered to be a gesture to Egypt.
“We can’t release dangerous terrorists to places in the West Bank, where they can kill Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu warned the committee, adding that the experience of past prisoner releases proved that released terrorists can return to terror.
“My responsibility is both to return Gilad to his family and to his nation, but also to take into consideration the security of all of Israel’s citizens,” said Netanyahu, adding that he had spoken with the Schalit family regarding the latest offer.
“I told the Schalit family that I understand them and identify with their terrible suffering and their expectations.”
Tzvi Schalit, Gilad’s grandfather, is scheduled to meet with the prime minister on Tuesday morning.
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