"Gilad was defending the country's borders and doing nothing beyond that," said Noam Shalit in an interview broadcast on Hamas' official television station on Monday evening regarding his son, kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Shalit also called on Israelis and Palestinians to declare a ceasefire and said that the pressing issue of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel goes beyond the capture of his son.
The pre-taped interview was conducted last month, long before Shalit heard the audio recording of his son which was posted Monday afternoon on Hamas' website.
"I have spent a full year in prison, and my health is still deteriorating, and I need prolonged hospitalization. I regret the lack of interest on the part of the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces in my case, and their refusal to meet the demands of the al-Qassam brigades," says Gilad, his words evidently dictated by his captors.
In the interview Shalit addressed the assumption that the largest obstacle standing in the way of his son's release was the issue of freeing Palestinian prisoners. "I am aware of the sensitive nature of the problem on the Palestinian side, a problem that affects many families," he said, "however this problem will not be resolved at the expense of Gilad Shalit alone. This matter will be resolved through peace talks between both sides."
"Gilad is being held hostage as the Palestinian population is being held hostage by extremists ever since the kidnapping," said Shalit, adding that he was shocked to hear recent Hamas threats to kidnap more soldiers.
"That kind of talk is not serious because a kidnapping here or there will be of no help," he said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Shalit revealed, had already pledged to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he would release prisoners as a goodwill gesture long before the kidnapping of his son. The kidnapping, he said, delayed that process from commencing.
The interview, apparently conducted in Ramallah, often resembling a political debate between Shalit and his interviewer. Shalit appears to shift uncomfortably in his chair and refuses to allow the host to drag him into criticizing Olmert, saying only that he simply hopes that an agreement over his son's release can be reached in the near future and that the siege on the Palestinian people can be lifted.
Meanwhile Olmert spoke at length about the Palestinian prisoners during his speech Monday evening at the Sharm el-Sheik summit. The prime minister announced that he would ask the government to approve the release of 250 Fatah prisoners “without blood on their hands” as a gesture of goodwill towards Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people.
'Palestinians disappointed me after disengagement'Shalit called on the Palestinians to end the incessant rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel, saying that the attacks harm both sides.
Following Gilad's abduction hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are now living under siege, he said, if he is released then thousands of Palestinian prisoners can be reunited with their families. "
In response to the host's claim that the demand made by the groups holding Gilad that Israel release long-time male prisoners, female prisoners and prisoners who are still minors is a legitimate demand, Shalit said: "These organizations have not yet decided their position on which prisoners they want released and the list was submitted to Egypt only last month."
Shalit said that no negotiations were made regarding the list of the prisoners despite Israel's demand to receive an updated manifest. Israel, said Shalit, has no objection to freeing sick and elderly prisoners, but Hamas is not interested in these prisoners, only those still tied up with the organization and those serving lengthy sentences.
Shalit said that he fully supported Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and that he had hoped that the Palestinians would prove to the world that they could manage. "But instead there was only rocket fire, rocket manufacturing and digging tunnels to smuggle weapons," he said.
Shalit said he would continue to do everything in his power to bring his son home and asked to address the Palestinian people, saying: "I ask of you to do everything to stop any acts of violence carried out by extremists on either side who seek to harm the peace."