"After four long and exhausting years, we are not prepared to accept the tired cliché that our activities and our demand that the government fulfill its obligations towards Gilad hinder or impede the negotiations over his release," Noam Shalit said Sunday at an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat.
Shalit, father of the abducted IDF soldier held in the Gaza Strip, declared he would not keep silent any more: "We are not prepared to accept the bargaining over the life of our son, a young man of flesh and blood."
Shalit, who was a special guest at the conference together with his wife Aviva, said that four years was enough time to set in motion everything the State of Israel could do.
"A state that can send military teams to save foreign citizens in Haiti, thousands of kilometers away, and I'm happy about this, proud of such deeds – such a state is supposed to be able to save a soldier held as a hostage just a few kilometers from its borders," he said. "We knew how to do this in the past."
Shalit slammed the government for being overly concerned about releasing murderers and terrorists: "For four years they've been telling us repeatedly that meeting the kidnappers' demands will encourage further abductions, as if the motivation of the various terror groups to kidnap Israelis here and abroad will disappear at once if we don't make the deal – and Israelis will be able to wander freely around the streets of Gaza, Nablus and Baalbek."
"It's hard for me to say," he continued, "but if the government fails this time too, and Gilad never comes home, this will not prevent the release or deportation of murderers and terrorists, however dangerous they might be."
'Save Gilad from death sentence'
"We've seen precedents in the past – see under Samir Kuntar," Shalit said, referring to the terrorist who was used as a bargaining chip for the attempted release of Ron Arad and was eventually freed in exchange for the bodies of Eldad Regev and Udi Goldwasser.
"They were eventually freed, but we will never see Gilad again, and if there are security considerations preventing the deal, it is the role of the security establishment, with support from the legislative authority of course, to deal with and neutralize dangers and threats if and when they arise."
"Don't tell us or the public that the security arms of the State of Israel, with its great capabilities and resources, are unable to neutralize dozens of terrorists… if and when they are released."
"We, the parents of Gilad, his family, friends and supports, stand before you today and before the government of Israel and its leaders, and demand justice, demand the freedom of our son Gilad before it's too late," Shalit said. "This is not a figure of speech – the time for speaking is past! It is time to fulfill the obligation of the state and its leaders towards its soldiers."
"We will not ignore Gilad's silent cries and we will not be silent anymore," Gilad's father promised. "We unequivocally demand that the state… saves Gilad from the death sentence."
Opposition Chairperson Tzipi Livni spoke after Shalit.
"I have heard you speak many times," she said. "Your words today were like arrows to our hearts, certainly to mine, because I was a minister in the government that sent Gilad."
- Gilad Shalit was abducted to the Gaza Strip 1,435 days ago