Some 600 people held a proetst at the Steel Division War Memorial in the Eshkol Regional Council near Kerem Shalom, where soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted five years ago, on Saturday.
A letter written by Shalit's grandfather, Zvi, was read during the rally. "It’s obvious to us that the prime minister, in his refusal to make a compromise, is gambling my grandson's life away and putting it in danger every day," the letter stated.
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The protestors carried signs calling the government to accept the terms of the prisoner swap deal.
In his letter, Zvi Shalit noted a meeting he held with the defense minister. "Mr. Ehud Barak with whom I met recently told me explicitly that he is in favor of carrying out the deal Hamas is proposing, but that Netanyahu is against it and Barak cannot change his mind.
"This does not rid the defense minister from the responsibility to saving my grandson's life. Being the minister entrusted with the army he is also by extension responsible for soldier Gilad Shalit's fate. Barak has served as defense minister for four years out of the five years Gilad has been kept captive."
The grandfather also insinuated that Gilad could die, which could lower the price for his release. "The damage Netanyahu is causing to the state by avoiding saving Gilad Shalit is far greater than that of releasing prisoners – he is hurting public morale and the morale of soldiers and teens about to enlist.
"I fear Netanyahu is waiting for us to hear that Gilad did not survive under the conditions in which he is kept, God forbid, in order to pay a far smaller price for his return."
Hundreds gather in Kerem Shalom (Photo: Roee Idan)
Ofakim Mayor Tzvika Greenwald said at the rally: "Everyone is talking about the cost. Five years held by a terror organization is the only relevant cost and that is being paid by Gilad and his family. No one else is really paying any price. Aren't five years enough, Mr. prime minister? They're more than enough.
Addressing Netanyahu, he added: "Are you concerned about the security cost or is it the political cost you worry about. I say – toss political considerations aside, release Gilad and we shall all bear the price and will overcome it."
A senior official in the defense establishment said in response: "It is not customary to publish one-on-one conversations involving the defense ministry. The description presented in the rally is inaccurate."
Calling on government to free Shalit (Photo: Roee Idan)
Thousands are expected to show up and support the Shalit family at the Jerusalem protest tent. Noam and Aviva Shalit have invited the public to join them.
"No one thought this awful day would come, no one thought Israeli governments would take so long to return a live soldier who was sent by Israel on mission five years ago," a statement they issued said. "Please call on the prime minister - 'There is no other alternative, the key is in your hands. Make the decision that will save Gilad before it's too late."
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