"Prime Minister Netanyahu is working vigorously and has taken it upon himself to bring Gilad home," the father said, speaking at a protest tent set up near the central bus station in Beersheba by Sheikh Salem al-Huzayyel in support of the struggle for Shalit's release.
Shalit, who met with the prime minister earlier this week, said during his visit to southern Israel that he appreciates and respects al-Huzayl's initiative. "It was important for me to come her just to see and get an impression."
He added that, unfortunately, he had no new information regarding his son. "Efforts are being made and I hope they are fruitful," he said.
Shalit went on to criticize former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government: "The previous government, for almost three years, failed in every channel to have Gilad released."
Al-Huzayyel, 50, from the Bedouin town of Rahat said he decided to launch a struggle for Shalit's released after watching his father on television. "He looked sad, and afterwards I went to visit him in Jerusalem in the protest tent he set up. I was with him for a week, and it was very painful for me.
Noam Shalit in Bedouin protest tent (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
"After I went home I thought to myself, what can I do to get his son home? And this is how my struggle started."
The sheikh said his family had opposed his initiative, and that he had even received threats from the Islamic Movement. "Despite this, I went on, and the first tent I set up was at the Beit Kama junction on Independence Day," he said.
"Then I went to central Tel Aviv and two weeks ago I set up the tent at the Lehavim-Rahat junction."
Head of the Islamic Movement in the Negev, Sheikh Hamed Abu Debes said the movement was not interfering with al-Huzayyel's activity, and said, "This is a private individual's initiative and he is entitled to do whatever he wants. We do not view this initiative as positive or negative."
Al-Huzayyel said he will continue to fight until Gilad returns home. "There are also Palestinian prisoners who should go back home,' he said.
"The prime minister's son recently enlisted in the IDF and just a few days later he went to visit him. If this was the prime minister's son instead of Noam's, he would have freed all the Palestinian prisoners for him. A deal must be made as quickly as possible," he added.