As Israel prepares to mark a year since Cpl. Gilad Schalit was kidnapped by Hamas operatives in a cross-border raid near the Kerem Shalom outpost, some 200 people, mostly from northern Israel, gathered in the Wohl Rose Garden in Jerusalem for a demonstration of solidarity with the families of Israel's captive soldiers. Participants held signs and banners bearing the images of Gilad and reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and the slogan, "Don't let apathy kill them." Gilad, Ehud, and Eldad shouldn't pay the price for the government's failures, Gilad's father, Noam, said in a speech at the rally.
Noam Schalit hopes for an end to the nightmare
"The prime minister knows what needs to be done to bring Gilad back, I'm asking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take responsibility and decide - ignore political considerations and just decide [to do it]," Schalit said.
"If you... don't know what to do, please give the job to someone who know how to take care of the matter and bring [our boys] back," he said.
Zvi Regev, Eldad's father, echoed Schalit's plea. "I call on you to bring the boys back immediately, even if it means paying a heavy price, or any price," Regev said.
"After a year, all we have to say is - you must take any opportunity for a deal to return our sons. Our sons are your sons, too - don't let apathy kill them."
Elsewhere in Jerusalem, President-Elect Shimon Peres said at a Jewish Agency conference that the Schalit family mustn't lose hope. "We're all one family," Peres said. "Gilad is the son of us allâ€¦ we will do everything... to bring him home."
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel had not and would not stop making every effort to bring Schalit home.
"I know how hard it is for the family," Olmert said, adding that the issues involved were "difficult."
Earlier Sunday, Gilad's grandfather, Zvi Schalit, called on the government to hold direct negotiations with Hamas for his grandson's release.
"The roundabout contact [with Hamas] via Egypt has been a failure, and the responsibility rests on the government's shoulders," Schalit said, speaking ahead of the demonstration.
Schalit added that the family was asking the prime minister to show flexibility and respond to the demands of Gilad's captors. The people [in charge of negotiations] haven't achieved any results, he added.
Schalit said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should release Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for proof that his grandson was alive.
Also Sunday, former PA foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said his organization was prepared to pick up negotiations for Schalit "where they left off."