Obama sympathized with the public struggle to release the Israeli soldiers held captive by Hizbullah, namely, Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, as well as Gilad Shalit who was abducted by Islamic forces in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting took place after the kidnapped soldiers’ family members met with congress members on Capitol Hill earlier in the day, and with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Tuesday.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik brought up the issue of the kidnapped soldiers in her meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during her visit to the United States.
Itzik told Rice that she met with Shalit’s parents before leaving for the United States, and said that they asked her to “do everything she could to release the soldiers”.
Rice responded by saying that Shalit’s release was the first issue she brought before the Quartet during last week’s meeting in Berlin. She pointed out to Itzik that even Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was pushing for his release.
“I told her that the release of the captive soldiers was the ethos of Israeli society,” Itzik said, “The return of Gilad Shalit is an essential condition to try to clear the air. Rice knows that Israel is willing to pay a heavy price in return for his release. I made it clear to her that we are pressed for time because we have had the bitter experience with what happened to Ron Arad.”