'Gov't must bring the boys back home'

Ben-Eliezer says he'll vote for Hizbullah prisoner swap; Ashkenazi: "Israel has duty to return soldiers."

ben eliezer 224.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ben eliezer 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Thursday morning that he would vote in favor of a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah in Sunday's cabinet vote. The deal would secure the release of kidnapped IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, held captive by Hizbullah since July 2006. Speaking to Army Radio, Ben-Eliezer stressed that Israel must "do everything in order to bring the boys back home," adding that he would also vote for a prisoner swap deal to free kidnapped IDF solider Gilad Schalit. Regarding Schalit's release, he added that "the government must sit day and night to find a political or military solution to bring him home." Concerning the Gaza truce, Ben Eliezer explained that he believed patience was needed. "We'll give it a chance, but if Kassam rocket fire on the communities in the South starts again, we must respond in full force," he said. The minister also spoke of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's intention to run in the upcoming Kadima party primaries. "It is hard for me to believe that he truly will contend," he said, "but if it does happen, Labor will need to reconsider its position." Ben-Eliezer went on to say that he believed there was currently no need for elections, but that "nothing is final." "Before anything else," he said, "we need to make it possible for Israel to continue to live in peace. Without political disputes on the news in the morning." IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi expressed similar sentiments Wednesday night, saying that Israel had a moral responsibility to return all soldiers taken captive by enemy countries. Speaking at a military ceremony, Ashkenazi said that "it is our moral obligation to do everything in our ability to return all of our soldiers that were taken captive by the enemy while fulfilling combative and defensive duties for the State of Israel." He added that "it is the responsibility of Israel; it is the responsibility of the IDF." The chief of General Staff expressed hope that "the day is not far… that we will see them with us again."