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Shalit Campaign Organizer: Netanyahu's Bureau Trying to Quash Support for Deal

A letter sent to campaign activists noted the underwhelming response to a petition circulated among Knesset members calling for an exchange deal.

The head of the campaign to secure the release of Gilad Shalit is blaming the Prime Minister's Office for the organization's failure to secure broad public and political support for a prisoner exchange agreement.

In a letter sent to campaign activists this weekend, Shimshon Liebman noted the underwhelming response to a petition circulated among Knesset members calling for an exchange deal and to a text-messaging campaign, writing: "Someone stopped us 'by force of law.'"

Shalit rally – 25.6.11 - AFP

Liebman told Haaretz that only 30 MKs had signed the petition and said the vast majority of Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu MKs had not met with Shalit's family.

"In my opinion some kind of pressure is being applied all the time from the Prime Minister's Bureau, I have no doubt of this, and certainly on Likud," Liebman said. "Only MK Miri Regev was willing to sign the petition and was willing to pay a personal price, when all [other Likud] MKs refused. There aren't many other explanation apart from some kind of fear, and the fact that we haven't managed to meet with most Yisrael Beiteinu MKs creates question marks. Even a party like Shas, where we know they're in favor of a deal but are incapable of signing on the paper, creates a ton of question marks."

Liebman added that fewer than half of Kadima MKs signed the petition.

A media campaign featuring radio and television spots with four former heads of Israeli security organization, urging Israelis to text message their support for a prisoner exchange deal, never got off the ground.

"I have no doubt that the Prime Minister's Bureau, acting through associates, is trying to brand us as leftists ... we didn't even manage to broadcast comparing Shalit to Ron Arad, on the grounds that it was politically controversial," Liebman said.

He drew a connection between these issues and recent searches carried out by the prime minister's security detail in the Shalit family's protest camp outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, searches Liebman characterized as "harassment."

The PMO rejected the allegations as "groundless."