The grandfather of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Zvi Shalit, told Haaretz that his meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was strained and fraught with disagreements. The 85-year-old told the premier he hoped to live to see his grandson's release.
Friday will mark four years since Gilad Shalit has been held by Hamas in captivity.
The elder Shalit had to wait for three hours before the prime minister was able to see him yesterday, as Netanyahu's schedule shifted around the budget votes. The meeting was also attended by top Shalit negotiator Haggai Hadas as well as Netanyahu's military secretary, Brig. Gen. Yohanan Locker.
The soldier's grandfather seemed distraught and disappointed on his way out of the meeting. He would not speak to reporters and when asked whether he left the meeting feeling optimistic, Shalit curtly answered "no," before adding "I'm exhausted."
Later in the day, Shalit issued a statement to the press. "I demanded of the prime minister that he bring back Gilad now, because he is the only one with the power to do so," the statement read.
"He showed understanding and claimed that everything I said will be taken into consideration in the decision-making process. I stressed the urgency and Gilad's critical situation. I would like to see my grandson Gilad while I am still alive," he said.
Shalit told Haaretz yesterday that substantial disagreements and arguments erupted during the meeting. He said the dangerousness of releasing high-profile Palestinian prisoners, one of Hamas' demands to carry out a swap in exchange for his grandson, came up in the conversation, and that he expressed his displeasure with Netanyahu's handling of this particular issue.
"The prime minister restated his position that such a move would endanger state security, and I said that on the contrary, their situation has changed and they will be released into a changed situation," Shalit said.
"I spoke as a person and as a grandfather who wants to see his grandson return home after four years [in captivity]. I told Netanyahu the conduct over this matter was not satisfactory and he said that yes, it was," he said.
This was the second meeting between Shalit and Netanyahu since the latter took office. Shalit met with the premier a year ago, along with Gilad's parents, Noam and Aviva Shalit. Since that time, he has written at least twice to the prime minister.
Although Netanyahu did not issue a statement about the content of the meeting, nor did he allow photographers to be present, his office did comment yesterday on the three-hour delay in the meeting.
"The prime minister could not leave the Knesset," a source in Netanyahu's office said. "We offered the grandfather a hotel to rest at until voting was complete, and when we saw that the voting was going to carry on, he was brought in a government vehicle to the Knesset, where he had an hour-long meeting with the prime minister."
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