Dan Halutz
Dan Halutz. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Israel had the chance to buy the return of missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad, whose plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said yesterday.

"We had the opportunity to pay money in order to buy Arad's freedom but because of national considerations, we decided not to do it," Halutz said while speaking at a cultural event in Be'er Sheva.

Halutz, who recently joined the Kadima party, made the reference to Arad while talking about kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Gaza-militants in 2006 during a cross-border raid.

"Shalit's kidnapping occurred while I was IDF chief and I understand the frustration," Halutz said.

"If it had been possible to do something immediately, we would have done it, but we didn't have the necessary intelligence information," Halutz added.

"I was of the opinion that we needed to strike Hamas immediately after the kidnapping, and not stop until Hamas said 'uncle' and Gilad came home. Unfortunately, even now we don't have the intelligence needed to do something," he said.

Halutz also remarked on future negotiation with Damascus, saying, "Making peace with Syria means significant concessions on the Golan Heights. The question is whether the public is willing, that's the question the leader who takes the lead and brings it to the public must ask. ... It's all a matter of leadership, whether our leaders want to lead in a particular direction or are always looking at public opinion polls."

The current government, Halutz said, "apparently isn't ready."