The six included former Heads of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon and Yaakov Peri, former Mossad Head Danny Yatom, Former Northern District Police Commander Alik Ron and Brigadier-General (Res.) Avigdor Kahalani.
"We are calling on the government of Israel to bring Gilad home, and dramatically accelerate the pace of negotiations," Peri told reporters, adding that he is not aware of any effort being made to pursue the offers currently on the table.
"As someone who has been in the Shin Bet for many years, I know that the State of Israel has never set any red lines or a framework regarding captive and missing soldiers, even though two years ago the defense minister set up a committee that was supposed to propose guidelines, but these conclusions were never published," he said.
'Israel is strong enough'Peri stressed that making a prisoner exchange deal was not an easy decision, which many think is wrong. However, he noted that most Israeli citizens support the release of murderers in return for Gilad Shalit.
"The State of Israel is strong enough, both in its intelligence and military might, to deal with these murderers with blood on their hands, in case they revert to their evil ways.
Six former security officials at press conference (Photo: Ofer Amram)
"Therefore, on the eve of Passover – the holiday of liberty – and after so many years, I call to bring home a captive soldier, whom we know is alive," he said.
"We must make a difficult and brave decision and not compromise," the former Shin Bet chief added, "The State of Israel has the power, and the government has a sacred duty to return a living captive soldier to his family. We can withstand this the same way we have withstood it in the past, when we paid a heavy price for much less."
"There's a risk involved, but we've taken larger risks in the past. We are experts in making up all sorts of guidelines we cannot accept. Blood on their hands or not – I don't see a difference between those who harmed us a lot and those who harmed us a little."
Former Shin Bet Head Carmi Gillon compared the case of Gilad Shalit to that of Ron Arad. "I think we are approaching a situation similar to when we were helpless vis-à-vis Ron Arad's whereabouts and fate. As days go by – Gilad Shalit's end approaches."
'Shattering the ethos'
Former Mossad Head Danny Yatom commented on the unwritten pact between the State of Israel and its soldiers: "The soldier must recruit to the army, and the State on its part needs to do everything it can to bring him home safe and sound. This is true for each and every soldier," he said.
"We've raised generations of commanders and soldiers to believe that the State does not leave anyone behind. This is what motivates soldiers to serve in combat units. If Gilad doesn’t return home, Israel's central military ethos will be shattered," he added.
Behind the initiative to group together former security officials for the release of Shalit are Kobi Sidi and Ofer Ben Tal, who organized the five minute silent protest that was held across the country last month.
The negotiations to release Shalit may have been deadlocked for the past few months, but the security establishment is still acting to settle accounts with his capturers.
During the last escalation in the south, the IDF killed Hamas commander Taysir Abu Snima, who was involved in Shalit's kidnapping and the firing of rockets at the southern resort city of Eilat.
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