Noam Shalit declared Sunday that the family of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit plans to intensify their battle to release their son, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no mandate to sentence his son to death.
"We say to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: you have no mandate to sentence Gilad to death," Shalit said during a press conference in front of the prime minister's official home in Jerusalem.
In a government meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel accepted the German mediator's offer, but Hamas never responded. "As long as Gilad Shalit isn't here, we have failed," said Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
Saturday marked five years since Gilad was captured by Hamas and taken to Gaza.
"The stubbornness and the obstinacy that you prime minister display in this sad affair is a real and immediate threat – not imaginary and not our fantasy – to Gilad's life. It is also a threat to the national strength and values of the state of Israel which we have been raised on for generations," Shalit said.
"In the absence of pressure placed on Hamas leadership, you must fulfill your duty to the IDF soldier that you sent over five years ago. Pay the price that is needed out of strength and not out of weakness, before it is too late," he added.
Shalit talked about the Jibril Agreement in 1985 between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in which Israel released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for three Israeli prisoners. "We claim the situation on the ground is completely different… today the control mechanisms of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority are far better," he said.
"In 2004 we made the Tenenbaum deal," Shalit continued, referring to an Israeli business man who was kidnapped to Lebanon and released in exchange for 435 prisoners held in Israel. "It was said then that the deal will lead to the murder of dozens of Israelis. The head of the Shin Bet at the time, Avi Dichter, clearly said he does not recognize those numbers, not even close." Shalit added that security prisoners are released every day, and "whoever wants and can carry out a terrorist attack after upgrading himself in the best school for terrorism – the Israeli prison – will do so regardless of a deal."
During the press conference, the Shalit family members unveiled a new campaign aimed at increasing the pressure on the government, titled "The National Referendum to Save Gilad." A number of former senior members of the security services are taking part in the initiative, and will voice their support for the current proposal for a prisoner swap.
I addition, the family hopes to gather support from hundreds of thousands of Israelis who will be asked to "vote" in favor of the deal by sending text messages to a special cellular number, 5252. According to the proposal the family is advocating, Israel would release 450 terrorists with blood on their hands and 500 others to be chosen by Israel. The next stage of the campaign will be revealed in the coming days.
Approximately 650 people gathered on Saturday at an armored corps monument in the Eshkol region of the western Negev to mark the sad occasion. The protesters called on the government to accept Hamas' terms for a prisoner swap.
Shalit's family did not attend the rally, but Gilad's grandfather, Zvi Shalit, sent a letter that was read out loud. "The people involved talk to us from time to time, caress our heads, but my dear grandchild Gilad is still rotting away in the Hamas cellars having done nothing wrong, like a common criminal," he wrote.
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