In a Monday meeting with bereaved families, President Shimon Peres said he understood the pain of family members over the sight of Palestinian terrorists released as part of the Gilad Shalit swap deal, adding, however, that it was his duty to save even one life.
Peres' remarks came amid a campaign led by family members of those killed in terror attacks against the Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange, with some bereaved families saying that the price Israel was forced to pay for the freedom of the abducted Israeli soldier was too high.
Emotions ran especially high earlier Monday, when the High Court of Justice discussed four different petitions against the Shalit deal, some of which were submitted by bereaved families.
Speaking in a meeting with representatives of the Terror Victims Association (TVA), Peres empathized with those who lost family members in terror attacks, adding, however, that "the State of Israel stands before a difficult decision."
"All of our hearts are torn in two, but we must make a decision," the president said, adding that he was "well aware of the bereaved families' pain. I know there isn't one person who could make up for the loss, and no one person who could heal the wound that will never close."
The TVA representatives told Peres that some of them supported the deal, with others opposing the agreement.
However, all those attending the meeting spoke of the "pain we felt when we first found out from the media that our children's' murderers were being set free," adding that they expected to "be treated with more sensitivity" by being notified in advance of the deal.
In response, Peres said that, countering their personal pain is the fate of Gilad Shalit, "who has spent five years in the captivity of a ruthless and brutal terror organization."
"The government made a tough decision, there wasn't one minister who wasn't torn inside," adding that the success of the deal required absolute secrecy.
"The decision was made and it is my duty to respect," Peres said, adding that "saving the life of one Israeli boy is a moral and ethical consideration."
"The State of Israel is holding you in this difficult moment, you who paid the dearest price of all for losing your loved ones, and are paying still," the president added.
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