Ya'alon defends Livni remarks on Schalit

Speaking to Army Radio, former IDF chief asks: Are we ready to give up State of Israel over a prisoner?

Moshe Yaalon 248.88 (photo credit: Ori Porat)
Moshe Yaalon 248.88
(photo credit: Ori Porat)
Despite coming under a slew of criticism for her comments last week in which she raised the possibility that captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit would not be released, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni received some unlikely support on Sunday from former IDF chief of general staff and current political rival Moshe Ya'alon. "Are you willing to give up the State of Israel for a prisoner?" Ya'alon, who is number 8 on the Likud Knesset list, asked while speaking to Army Radio. "The expression, 'at any price' is not appropriate." "I think that the issue of Gilad Schalit needs to be above politics, and I am cautious about expressing myself on this subject," Ya'alon continued, adding that he agrees "with what Tzipi Livni said and also with what [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak said - not at any price." "We have brought ourselves to a point where it's worthwhile [for the enemy] to kidnap soldiers," he said. "Therefore, from every perspective, I stand behind the things I said. Leadership is not a question of spins and propaganda, we need to serve the interests of the State of Israel for the long term." On Friday, Livni, who herself has two sons serving in elite units in the IDF, reiterated her comment that securing Schalit's release may be impossible. "Releasing Gilad Schalit is not a matter of whether we want to or not," she said. "It is important for me to stress to every soldier and everyone who is enlisting in the army that we are still in a fight for Israel's existence, that the government is responsible for every IDF soldier and that every one of us wants and is acting so that every soldier will return home. However, the question is not whether we want it or not, but whether or not it is possible." On Saturday, Barak sharply criticized Livni for the remarks. "I'm not too sure that I understand [Livni's] statement," Barak said while speaking at a function in Holon. "I have buried many soldiers who were killed and did not return. We have the highest responsibility to return a soldier who is alive and in captivity through all suitable and possible methods, but not at any price. Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi also responded to Livni's comments, declaring that Schalit was on Israel's agenda every day. "Vast resources are being invested in this matter," Ashkenazi said at a meeting with Beduin and Druse leaders for Eid al-Adha on Friday. "I am hopeful that we will succeed in returning Gilad home to his family as quickly as possible." Livni's comments also enraged activists pushing for Schalit's release, with dozens of demonstrators rallying outside her Tel Aviv home during the weekend to protest the remarks.