Peres: We must ‘pay any price’ for Schalit’s release

In meeting with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president says Israel has gone beyond expectations in what it is prepared to offer Hamas.

Peres Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311 (photo credit: Avi Yair Engel / GPO)
Peres Rabbi Ovadia Yosef 311
(photo credit: Avi Yair Engel / GPO)
Israel must do everything possible to facilitate the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit, President Shimon Peres told reporters on Sunday after emerging from a meeting with Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas political leader Eli Yishai and Haim Cohen of the World Federation of Moroccan Jews.
Still, Peres emphasized that Israel has gone way beyond expectations in what it is prepared to offer Hamas in exchange for Schalit. “We’re still waiting for a formal response,” he said.
“We must continue to act and do all we can, pay any price, for Gilad’s release,” Peres told Army Radio after his meeting with Yosef.
Asked what they had discussed, Peres listed the closing of the social gap, the preservation of national unity and the strengthening of relations with the United States.
Peres has made a point of visiting Yosef and the chief rabbis of Israel just before Rosh Hashana and during Pessah and Succot, since before he became president.
At his meeting with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Peres expressed outrage at the imbroglio regarding the construction of a rocket-proof emergency wing at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, especially since both Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger had given a joint halachic ruling that the area in dispute (because it may contain Jewish graves) could be built on in order to save lives.
Peres said that medical personnel at Barzilai had raised the issue with him more than a year ago when he was visiting soldiers who were wounded during Operation Cast Lead. He had regarded the matter as urgent at the time and had telephoned Amar immediately to explain the situation. He had been gratified by Amar’s instant comprehension of the need, and of his subsequent official response. Peres was at a loss to explain why the construction of an emergency room had to become a subject of dispute, especially as Barzilai is the only hospital providing essential medical services to soldiers and the general population in the western Negev.
Amar lauded Peres for his efforts to bridge differences between various sectors of society, especially between the secular and the haredi communities. He termed Peres’s recent visit to Bnei Brak “a refreshing change” that may lead to a much improved social environment. The differences are minimal he said, “but the commonalities are great.”
At Metzger’s home, Peres met Chief Rabbi of Georgia Yaacov Gelashvili, where the three discussed the security of Georgia’s Jews.
Metzger is a frequent visitor in the various capitals of the former Soviet Union.
Although the major post-Pessah Mimouna celebration hosted by the WorldFederation of Sephardi Jews is scheduled to take place on Tuesday atthe Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’uma), Pereswas the guest of honor on Monday night at a smaller Mimouna gatheringat the Pavilion banquet hall in the capital’s Talpiot neighborhood.