Just a day ahead of a scheduled mass protest planned by the family of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz stressed that the decision on the soldier's release would not be "made in the streets".
Speaking at a cultural event in Beersheba Steinitz said, "These are decisions that cannot be made in the streets, a march, or a referendum." The minister is known as opposed to a prisoner-swap that would free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
"This is one of the tragic dilemmas decision-makers are faced with. On the one hand, there is the heart – we all pray with one heart to see him again. But on the other, to be a decision-maker one must make decisions not only from the heart, but from the head," he said.
"The State of Israel must defend itself. We live in the roughest neighborhood on Earth, and those who choose to release hundreds of terrorists with blood on their hands could significantly harm our ability to defend ourselves when the next waves of terror come around. No one has promised that the previous intifada was really the last."
Steinitz said he understood the public's emotions, but stressed, "If we want to continue our existence Israel must be careful and not ignore national security considerations. We cannot act according to concerns of emotion and sympathy alone. Those who say 'at any price' do not know what they are saying."
The finance minister said that if Israel was to capitulate, the state may be faced with territorial demands next time a soldier is taken captive. "Terror organizations will certainly consider it. This state does more to get back kidnapped and missing people than any other," he said.
But not everyone in the audience was receptive to these explanations. "If it was your son, you'd think different," one audience member called out.
"If it was my son I would feel differently and exclude myself from the decision-making process," Steinitz answered. "However, I respect Shalit's parents. It is their right to fight, and I salute them. If it had happened to one of my children, I would react similarly."
Meanwhile Noam and Aviva Shalit are completing plans for a march in honor of their son, to take place Sunday. They have vowed to travel by foot to Jerusalem, where they will set up a protest tent before the Prime Minister's Residence. "We will not return without Gilad," Noam Shalit has said.