Schalits' petition to High Court

Gilad Schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
According to the petition, Olmert lied to the security cabinet on June 18, by telling the ministers that the cease-fire agreement included the release of Schalit. "The cabinet members were told unequivocally that Gilad's release was an integral part of the agreement," the petitioners wrote. "To the best of the petitioners' knowledge, these things were said several times during the meeting and recorded in the minutes." It was because of this declaration, the Schalits' lawyers argued, that the security cabinet approved the cease-fire. "Had the ministers been told that the agreement would not be made conditional on Gilad's release, there is a significant probability that the committee would have made a different decision." The petitioners also maintained that Noam Schalit had met Olmert six times since his son's kidnapping and each time the prime minister had assured him that any cease-fire agreement reached with Hamas would include Gilad's release. They argued that once the border crossings were opened and the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip lifted, Hamas would have no incentive to release Schalit and negotiations could continue for years. Furthermore, if Israel opened the border crossings, Egypt would open the Rafah border crossing and the terrorists would be able to move Schalit out of the Gaza Strip. The petitioners compared Schalit's plight to that of IAF navigator Ron Arad, who was captured by Shi'ite militiamen after being shot down in Lebanon. The lawyers maintained that even though the Supreme Court does not intervene in matters of foreign policy, the issues at stake here were different. First of all, the cabinet decision to approve the cease-fire had been based on a lie. Secondly, the decision not to include Schalit in the cease-fire agreement was a violation of his constitutional right to life in accordance with the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom. Noam and Aviva Schalit included in the petition a letter they received earlier this month from Gilad. Last year, on the anniversary of his kidnapping, Hamas sent them an audio cassette of their son speaking and in September 2006, they also received a letter from Gilad. In this last letter he wrote, "to not abandon the negotiations for my release [by] directing its efforts only towards the release of the soldiers in Lebanon." In response to the petition, Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said "the government understands the pain of the Schalit family and has nothing but respect for them." According to a Saturday report in the London-based daily A-Sharq al-Awsat the fundamental disagreement holding up Schalit's release rests on 30 Palestinian prisoners that Israel has refused to release in exchange for the soldier. Today, Israel will begin easing restrictions at the crossings into the Gaza Strip and will increase the amount of food and clothing it allows into Gaza by 30 percent, as defense officials remain skeptical that the cease-fire with Hamas, which began on Thursday, will last. The decision to increase the goods transferred into Gaza was made Thursday by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i during a security assessment at his office in Tel Aviv. Defense officials said that based on the format of the cease-fire, Israel would make an additional increase - that would include raw materials such as cement, gravel and metal - in another week. Over the past year, Israel has limited the transfer of raw materials into Gaza out of fear that they were being used to make Kassam rockets. The Defense Ministry Crossings Directorate will also begin work Sunday on fixing the Kerem Shalom crossing, which was severely damaged several months ago when a Palestinian truck bomb exploded inside. The damages are estimated at several million shekels but officials said that Sufa - currently the only operational crossing - could only facilitate 100 trucks a day. The number of trucks will begin to increase next week. On Friday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said that only after the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas was completed would the Gaza blockade be lifted entirely. He said that Schalit's release was not part of the first stage of the Gaza truce agreement. "We need to stabilize the truce before we can move on to the next stages and before the prisoners can be freed," Zaki told the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya news channel. On Tuesday, Olmert is scheduled to travel to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and to kick off the new round of Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas for the release of Schalit. Olmert will be joined on the trip by Ofer Dekel, the former deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), who is Israel's chief negotiator on the prisoner issue. Also on Tuesday, the Schalit family - along with their friends and supporters - plan to hold a protest rally at 7 p.m. outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, an event is planned in Schalit's hometown of Mitzpe Hila in the upper Galilee to mark the second anniversary of his kidnapping. On Friday, after meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Noam Schalit told reporters, "We spoke about the Gaza truce and the deal to release Gilad. I don't expect more meetings any time soon. The discussion with Barak did not satisfy me." Barak, meanwhile, told reporters in Paris on Thursday that Israel would be required to make difficult decisions on the Schalit issue. He said that while no one believed the latest Gaza truce would be immediately followed by Schalit's release, it would certainly lead to intensive negotiations. On Friday, Barak met with the families of captive reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006. On Saturday defense officials said that while a deal with Hizbullah had been finalized it would still take another "week or so" for the exchange to take place. Eldad's father, Zvi Regev, told The Jerusalem Post that he walked out of the meeting with a positive feeling that a deal would be concluded soon. "He [Barak] told us he would do everything he could to bring Eldad and [Ehud] Udi home," Regev said. Unlike the Schalit family, the Regevs and Goldwassers have received no sign of life from either man. In this meeting, as well, no information was available as to their well-being, Regev said. "What we know is what he knows," he said. The Regev and Goldwasser families urged Barak to agree to the terms set by Hizbullah and to release Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar. Miki Goldwasser, Ehud's mother, was less optimistic with respect to the meeting with Barak and said that she had heard nothing new. "He just wanted to hear our point of view and our opinions." She added that she had a very deep feeling that her son was still alive, based on Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's statement that the two were taken alive. "I know it in my heart," she added. Both families plan to head to Jerusalem on Sunday to lobby ministers regarding a deal with Hizbullah for the release of their sons. AP and Staff contributed to this report