A few days before leaving on their long march from Mitzpe Hila to the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Noam and Aviva Shalit on Monday visited paid a visit to the Capital. Almost four years after their son was taken captive, the Knesset launched a lobby group for the release of Gilad Shalit.
Gilad's father slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day after the government announced it would ease the restrictions on the Gaza blockade.
Shalit noted in anger that Netanyahu exclaimed the change of policy in a definitive tone, in front of Quartet envoy Tony Blair, as if saying "I have surrendered to international pressure."
"And where is Gilad in this whole story?" Shalit asked the participants, and mentioned that dozens of 'bargaining chips' were released on Sunday, including Hamas senior official Naif Rajoub.
"We are not surprised; it's yet another link in the government's chain of failures. Unfortunately four attempts to free Gilad have failed."
'Chain of failures,' Aviva and Noam Shalit (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Gilad added that other in Ron Arad's case, the State of Israel has not had such a proof of inadequacy by not fulfilling its duty toward the soldiers it sends to the battlefield.
Chen Arad, the brother of missing navigator Ron Arad, spoke during the lobby's first session. "I am here because I am Ron's brother. He is used as an example and a metaphor to what might happen to Gilad. There is a sense of loss because Ron is a legendary character and the State has not paid its dues in his case."
"I have been in this scenario, where the families of the captive soldiers keep their silence and are compared to noble steeds – until they start kicking. Something has gone wrong in the unwritten agreement between the state and its soldiers. There is a pathetic process that I cannot comprehend as a civilian. That's why I'm here, and that's why I will march," added Arad.
Aviva Shalit and Chen Arad (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Many members of Knesset also attended the first session of the lobby group. MK Miri Regev (Likud), who established the group along with Shaul Mofaz (Kadima ) and Eitan Cabel (Labor ), said it was the first time a lobby group is created for a captive soldier.
"The group's aim is to strengthen the prime minister and bring Gilad Shalit home – so that we do not reach a situation of another Ron Arad," she said.
'Its time someone tells the truth'
According to Regev, the decision to set the prisoners free was not simple because there is a fear they might return to terrorist activity after their release. "Despite this fear, it was done both in the Jibril Agreement and in the case of Samir Kuntar. Releasing prisoners does not give them an insurance certificate – and if need be we can apprehend them again," she said.
MK Shaul Mufaz said the lobby group carries an important message for the young people serving in the IDF. "The Shalit family has gone through four years of pain and frustration. Nothing will happen without a government decision. With no clear policy of negotiations to release Palestinians, Gilad will stay in Hamas captivity."
Tzelik, an activist with the campaign for the release of Gilad Shalit, abruptly interfered in the discussion and told the MKs, "I am sitting here exploding. Raise your voices; have you fallen asleep on the watch? What is this irresponsibility? Netanyahu is struggling for his own survival, and it's time someone tells him the truth to his face," he said, while being calmed down by the Shalit family.
MK Arie Eldad told Ynet the central problem in the Shalit affair was that the State has given away its pressuring mechanisms against the Hamas.
"There is a complete collapse. This morning the government gave up its main mechanism when it opened the crossings to Gaza – which will undoubtedly increase the price for Shalit's return," he said.