Schalit's parents try to sway opponents

Metzger slams irrespons

Noam Schalit Metzger 248.88 (photo credit: )
Noam Schalit Metzger 248.88
(photo credit: )
Kidnapped IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, apparently failed on Wednesday to convince two ministers opposed to releasing hundreds of Palestinian terrorists from prison in order to bring home their son. The Schalits met at the Knesset with National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Sources close to the two ministers said after the meetings that their opinion on the matter remained unchanged. "He doesn't want to speak about it, because he doesn't want to kick anyone when they're down, but he didn't change his mind," a source close to Landau said. "He is concerned that there are many other ministers who are drifting away from their principles at a time when real leadership is required." A spokeswoman for the Schalit family said they would continue meeting with many ministers with varying views on the deal. "We will meet with everyone until Gilad comes home," the spokeswoman said. "We must strengthen the people strongly on our side and try to persuade the ministers who are a weak point." Knesset sources said Wednesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was wary of allowing a plenum debate on the deal for Schalit. Earlier this week, Netanyahu promised that a Knesset discussion would be held on the deal, and opposition party National Union reiterated its demand that such a debate be held before - and not after - the release was effected. Supporters of the initiative said that in the past 24 hours, they had attempted to convince Netanyahu that he could be certain of a majority in any Knesset vote on the subject. According to Knesset protocol, a vote must follow any plenum hearing. A senior Likud MK who supports such a hearing said Wednesday that such a vote would be a walk in the park for the coalition. Within the coalition, only a handful of Likud and Israel Beiteinu MKs are likely to vote against the deal, while much of the opposition is expected to vote in favor. Also Wednesday, the Schalits asked the country's two chief rabbis to help prevent a situation in which Gilad's release would lead to divisiveness between those opposed to the deal and those who supported it. During meetings with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Schalits asked for the rabbis' help in bringing about unity. "The Schalits expressed concern that if Gilad is released in exchange for hundreds of terrorists, it will cause a backlash of hatred and infighting," said a spokesman for Metzger. "The chief rabbi agreed to help." Metzger also voiced criticism of a group of right-wing rabbis who said it was forbidden according to Halacha to endanger Jews by releasing Palestinian terrorists in exchange for Schalit. The rabbis, who call themselves The Way of Faith, include many leading rabbinic figures in religious Zionism, including Hebron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Beit El's Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Elon Moreh's Rabbi Elyakim Levanon. Metzger said through his spokesman that the rabbis were behaving "irresponsibly" by issuing a statement without first investigating all the details of the prisoner swap. This was especially true, he said, considering that a Jewish soldier's life was at stake. On a personal note, Metzger said that his 93-year-old mother prayed daily for Schalit's release and that she had a special request to be present when he returned. Meanwhile, Amar's spokesman said the chief rabbi did not obligate himself to support any future cabinet decision. "The rabbi said that the issue was very serious and had to be decided carefully," the spokesman said. Amar has publicly expressed his opinion - most recently during a memorial service for former chief rabbi Shlomo Goren - that the decision whether or not to release Schalit is one for politicians and military experts and not for rabbis, who are not in a position to understand the intricacies of the proposed deal. Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.