shalit - Reuters - October 12 2011
Noam Shalit, the father of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, speaks to the media at a protest tent outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, October 11, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The Shalit family requested on Sunday to be present at a High Court of Justice hearing, scheduled to discuss petitions issued geared at thwarting a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the release of their son, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, warning that any delay in the agreement's execution could lead to its failure.

The court is expected to discuss the petitions of individual families of terror victims aginst the Shalit deal on noon Monday, as well as they of the Almagor Terror Victims Association.

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Speaking to Haaretz on Thursday, one day prior to the petition's submission, Almagor chairman Meir Indor told Haaretz that the petition was "not a political decision, but a philosophical one. This deal empties the justice system of content in the name of values the prime minister considers are more important."

High Court approval of the petitions against the release, or the refusal of President Shimon Peres to pardon them, could thwart implementation of the exchange deal.

However, in the past the courts have turned down petitions by families seeking to prevent the en masse release of prisoners, and presidents have rubber-stamped such releases.

On Sunday, the Shalit family asked the High Court of Justice to allow them to attend Monday's hearing, and to enable them to respond to the petitioners' claims against the deal. Later Sunday, the High Court approved the Shalit family's participation.

In their request, the Shalit family warned against any delay in what they called a "delicate" deal to release their son, fearing that any change, even the smallest, could cause the agreement to fall through.

"Any change, any shift in terms, even in the agreed-upon timetable, may be a cause to change the deal and may even bring about its nullification," the Shalit request read, adding: "It is in face of all of these, that the Shalit family issues its request, one coupled with a moral demand of the highest order"

"It is a personal demand, made by all of the family members that the esteemed court does not accept any change, delay, or the displacement of a single element, as tiny as it may be, in the delicate fabric of the Shalit deal, as it was approved by the government," the request added.

Recent Palestinian criticism of the terms of the Shalit deal was also cited as a potential point of trouble, one which made the Israel-Hamas agreement all the more fragile.

The Shalit family also indicated that their opposition to the Almagor petitions did not mean that family members did "not empathize with the [bereaved] families' pain, whose sons and daughters were hurt in terror attacks."

"Noam Shalit also lost a brother in the Yom Kippur war. But, now that their son's release is so close, the family cannot agree to any delay," the request said.

In 2008, Justice Eliezer Rivlin ruled, in the case of Samir Kuntar - who was convicted of murdering a policeman and members of the Haran family in Nahariya in 1979 and released in exchange for the bodies of Israel Defense Forces soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev - that the release of prisoners was at the government's discretion.

It seems unlikely that Peres, who has spoken enthusiastically in favor of the Shalit swap, will stand in the way. Moreover, Peres was prime minister in 1985, in the so-called Jibril swap, when 1,150 security prisoners, were released in return for three IDF soldiers, Hezi Shai, Nissim Salem and Yosef Grof, who were captured during the first Lebanon war. Included in that swap were Kozo Okamoto, among the perpetrators of the Lod airport massacre in 1972, and Ahmed Yasin, who became Hamas' spiritual leader