Text size

Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated on Wednesday his belief that Israel Defense Forces soldiers must be willing to risk their lives in service of their country and that the government would not pay any price for the return of Gilad Shalit, who has been languishing in Hamas captivity for over three years.

"The time has come to say bluntly: Combat troops and soldiers arrive with the knowledge that the task of fulfilling their missions entails a willingness to risk their lives and that the fighters have that willingness to undertake the mission," Barak said.

The defense minister raised eyebrows on Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with high-school students, when he retorted that the tone of the public discussion surrounding the Shalit affair has included "whining."

"We cannot blur the basic truth," Barak said. "We are a generation of fighters and in the Middle East, there is no mercy for the weak and there will not be a second opportunity for those who do not know how to defend themselves."

"A society that looks to survive must prepare its youth to stand together," the defense minister said. "We have a moral responsibility as commanders to bring back Shalit and we will make every possible and worthy effort to bring him home, but not at any price. We cannot get carried away by words that have no basis in fact."

The father of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit urged the government Wednesday to secure his son's release.

"During these days of repentance and before the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Gilad needs to be home," Noam Shalit said during a ceremony in Ashdod. "Gilad needs to come home before it is too late, and someone can correct me if I'm wrong."

On Tuesday, Barak said Israel would do its utmost to secure the release of Shalit, "not at any price, but in every way."

Shalit refused to comment on Barak's comments, but did say: "I believe that during these days there needs to be less speech and less chatter... I call on others to endeavor to do more, with more determination and less talk."

Negotiations have yielded little result so far for the release of Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity since he was abducted by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.

The German mediator in the talks for Shalit's release has presented Hamas with a new proposal to which the Palestinian Islamist group would have three days to respond, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.