shalit - Emil Salman - April 22 2011
Aviva Shalit in the family’s protest tent in Jerusalem yesterday. Photo by Emil Salman
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The grandfather of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit assailed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, accusing him of cynically and brutally using his family for photo opportunities, while doing nothing to secure his grandson's release.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister's Bureau, Zvi Shalit embarked on an unprecedented assault on Netanyahu about the abduction of his grandson, his captivity by Hamas, and how the prime minister manipulates the media.

"Every time there is media interest on the issue of my grandchild Gilad, you invite my son Noam and my daughter-in-law Aviva for a pointless meeting that ends in heartache," he wrote.

"You sit them down in your living room, with your wife there too, as if this was a meeting between friends. But essentially, Mr. Netanyahu, you make cynical, brutal use of my son and my daughter-in-law to give the public the impression that action is being taken, when in essence nothing is being done to save my grandson."

According to Shalit, a deal securing his grandson's release was reached a year ago, but the prime minister foiled it.

"Your refusal then and your refusal now to respond to the request of former heads of the security services to release Gilad at the price set is tantamount to a death sentence for Gilad," the elder Shalit wrote. "My grandson was young and healthy when he was abducted, at 19 years of age. If he dies in Gaza, it will be a long and brutal death."

Shalit directed questions at the prime minister and even mentioned Netanyahu's own son, even though the Shalit family has been careful not to mention him throughout their public campaign.

"Mr. Netanyahu, can you imagine a situation in which you would refuse to pay the price for the life of your own son, who is [being held] just several dozen kilometers away from you, while you let him die?" Shalit asked.

"If you tell me this is not a politically correct question, I will ask you whether it is PC to refuse to bring back my grandson as a living soldier, [while in the past] we paid with living terrorists for known fallen soldiers," the grandfather added.

The Prime Minister's Bureau responded to the letter almost immediately after its distribution, saying the efforts to bring Gilad Shalit home in good health are continuous and are conducted under Netanyahu's direct guidance and supervision, efforts that resulted in obtaining the first video footage of Gilad in 2009.

"A year has passed since Israel presented its latest offer to Hamas, through the German mediator, in the negotiations to free Shalit," the bureau's message said. "Hamas has not responded to the offer, which suggests the other side has no interest in completing an exchange that would see Gilad return home."

The Prime Minister's Bureau reiterated that, along with his enormous commitment to bringing Gilad Shalit home, Netanyahu is also "responsible for the safety of every Israeli citizen."

"Past experience suggests that dozens of Israelis have been murdered in terrorist attacks carried out by those terrorists who were released in previous [prisoner swap] deals, as in the Jibril and Tannenbaum deals," the bureau said.