'Gov't has to turn words into action'

Schalit supporters rally outside security cabinet meeting.

Schalit demo 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Schalit demo 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As a young soldier, Guy Eliasaf fought alongside Gilad Schalit. He has since completed his mandatory service, but he has not stopped working for the release of his friend, who has been held captive in Gaza since June 2006. On Wednesday morning, Eliasaf was among several dozen protesters who stood outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to call on the government to bring Schalit home. As the security cabinet sat inside and debated the terms of a cease-fire with Hamas, the demonstrators outside yelled, "We want him home now." Several of the protesters blew on small plastic horns and one young man banged on a stiff cardboard box that he had turned into a makeshift drum. They held up large cloth blue banners with Schalit's photograph and large white ones that said: "Fighting For Your Freedom." In advance of the security cabinet meeting, Eliasaf and a number of Gilad's friends from the army wrote a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and urged him to seize this moment. While he applauded the cabinet's decision Wednesday to prioritize Gilad's release, Eliasaf said, "They have to turn their words into actions." In a message that was sent out from the Campaign to Release Gilad Schalit, the family thanked the ministers for linking the young man's release with a cease-fire, a move which the cabinet failed to do last June, when a six-month cease-fire with Hamas was reached. It also said that it was grateful that the cabinet would not fully open the crossings into Gaza until he was freed. "The family sees in this decision an important and necessary step toward returning Gilad home. We want to strengthen the hands of the ministers so that they hold fast to this stance," the family said. They added that they hoped that Gilad would be released before a new government took over in the coming weeks. Among those who did not pay much attention to the details of Wednesday's decision was Yossi Zur, whose son Asaf, 17, was among the 17 people who were killed in a suicide bombing on the No. 37 bus in Haifa on March 5, 2003. While he wants to see Gilad released, he does not believe he should be swapped for the 1,400 security prisoners that Hamas has demanded in exchange. So Zur's focus has been on lobbying the cabinet to avoid making any decision to release the prisoners. He and a number of other parents who lost children in that bus bombing have asked to meet with a number of ministers, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak. They are also exploring legal options, he said. They have already asked the Justice Ministry to release the names of the Hamas prisoners who are being considered for a swap in the exchange for Schalit, as well as the names of the terrorists connected to the attack on the Haifa bus. Some 180 Israelis have been killed by terrorists who were released in past prisoner deals, Zur said. "No one can kill Assaf again, but everyone who has children should be afraid of this deal," he said. The whole topic was political, he said. Olmert could have obtained Schalit's release anytime during the last two and a half years, Zur insisted, and did not have to wait for the last minute.