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Defense Minister Ehud Barak told parents yesterday: "We are doing everything possible to bring Shalit home, but not at any price."

Barak made the remark to parents holding a protest vigil at the Nofei Besor school who demanded to know what he was doing to bring home kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit home. The defense minister was visiting several schools in the Negev

Addressing the students later, Barak reiterated that everything possible was being done to bring Shalit home, "but not at any price." He urged everyone who wants "any price to consider that option through."

One student, Almog Ben-Natan of Talmei Yosef, asked Barak whether the state could ensure his safety were he captured.

This is not Europe

"The state cannot ensure your well-being, your life or that you won't be captured as a soldier," the defense minister answered. "You are going into the army to fight. This is not Western Europe," he said.

"Whoever does not blink in the face of Qassams, abductions and military cemeteries will survive," Barak said.

Barak said that "efforts are being made every day by the best minds in Israel. It's good that the public is calling for Gilad's return, but I suggest to the entire Israeli people not to think in terms of whining, not to think in terms of losing the way and spinelessness. We have had very tough tests in the past, and difficult struggles lie ahead. We must not lose our cool and our ability to stand strong. We must fight in the face of every difficulty until we win."

In response to a question from Or Yellin, the son of the regional council head, Haim Yellin, Barak said, "It's not a race to see who wants Shalit home most.

Cruel negotiations

He said the negotiations are "harsh and sometimes cruel. We must also take into account future events and also [think] about future opportunities. I advise us all to continue to stick to the goal and not to think in terms of whining and doubts about the way. We have withstood more difficult things."

Barak said the issue concerned "murderers who if the people hear about the attacks they were involved in will make things very difficult for them. There is a saying in the Talmud that prisoners are not to be redeemed for more than they are worth. We are all committed to bringing Shalit home, but not at any price," Barak said.

Shalit's family said: "We expect from Barak fewer quotes and more action.