Noam Shalit - Appelbaum - Feb 19, 2011
Noam Shalit in the family’s protest tent in Jerusalem on February 19, 2011, which marked his son Gilad’s 1,700th day of captivity. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Former Shin Bet security service head Carmi Gillon on Saturday accused ex-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi of responsibility for the failure to secure the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Speaking at a rally near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem to mark 1,700 days since Shalit was captured, Gillon said July's march to Jerusalem to free Shalit had ended at the prime minister's residence because "we mistakenly thought that inside lives a man who is supposed to be leading and enforcing decisions. The prime minister is not the address. The address is the IDF General Staff and [new] Chief of Staff Benny Gantz."

Gillon told the crowd of about 1,000 that according to the media, Ashkenazi's links with ex-officer Boaz Harpaz, who faces criminal charges, had cast a pall over his tenure as chief of staff.

But in fact, "the pall was cast by his failure to bring Shalit back," Gillon said, citing reports that though Ashkenazi supported a prisoner swap with Hamas, he gave in to pressure by the heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet.

Aviva Shalit, the kidnapped soldier's mother, said, "We are again standing before the prime minister's residence after 1,700 days, as we stood after 100, 200 and 700 days. We are voicing Gilad's mute cry from the darkness of the pit in Gaza. We call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hidden here in his home behind walls and sealed windows. We cry out, and there is no answer. Enough talk, enough explanations, enough excuses. Bring Gilad home before it's too late."

'Every day is the right day to remember'

The writer Meir Shalev, who also addressed the crowd, said, "This is the 1,700th day of Gilad's captivity, but every day is the right day to remember that Gilad Shalit is still alive. Every day is the right day to demand an accounting from the prime minister for his actions regarding his kidnapped soldier.

"The government's answers, which we've heard time and time again, are not enough - not the answer that public pressure is a hindrance nor the answer that it strengthens the other side ... Gilad Shalit is not imprisoned by Hamas, but by the hesitation and inaction of Israel's government and its leader."

Addressing the prime minister, Shalev continued, "You will not be able to solve this with another slogan, another spin, another pose, with [handing out] another official position, with more fear-mongering. You have to finally stake out a clear position and act on it."

At the beginning of the rally, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked (Atzmaut ) spoke, saying she is ready to pay the price of freeing terrorists with blood on their hands "to meet our humanitarian, national and moral commitment."

But Noked was booed by the crowd, which urged her to resign from the government.