Noam Schalit heads to United States

Father of captured soldier will ask officials to condition progress of peace talks on Gilad's release.

noam Schalit cap 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
noam Schalit cap 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, is heading to the US on Monday for a series of meetings with influential Jewish community leaders and Obama administration officials in New York and Washington. Schalit will meet Senate and House representatives as well as spokespeople for US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was expected to stress his family's demand to receive a concrete sign that Gilad is alive and to voice criticism for the conduct of the Red Cross, which has still not managed to send a representative to visit his son, held by Hamas in Gaza. Schalit will also ask that the return of his son be set as a condition for any progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, or any future agreement with Hamas, Army Radio reported. Shimshon Liebman, a spokesman for the Schalit family, stressed that the trip did not remove any responsibility for returning Gilad from the Netanyahu government "Our disappointment is huge and we are currently waiting to hear the steps [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu plans to take," said Liebman. "It's totally clear to us that the full responsibility lies on the shoulders of the government and that all its decisions will be accepted here in Israel." Meanwhile, Gilad's grandfather, Tzvi Schalit, told Army Radio that he didn't believe Netanyahu was doing enough to secure his grandson's release. It comes after the resignation of Ofer Dekel, former prime minister Ehud Olmert's point man on the prisoner issue, and his temporary replacement by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin. Meanwhile, Dekel told Army Radio Monday that public protests weakened Israel's position when it came to negotiations for captured soldiers.