Noam Shalit Slams Israel for 'Grave Failures' in Talks to Free Son

'A country that rescued thousands of earthquake victims in Haiti should be capable of saving a single soldier,' says father of Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in 2006.

The father of an Israeli soldier capture by Hamas militants four years ago lashed out at the government on Sunday, accusing the state of "grave failures" in its fruitless efforts to free his son.

Noam Shalit, May 15, 2010
Daniel Bar-On

"A country that rescued thousands [of earthquake victims] in Haiti should know how to save one of its soldiers," Noam Shalit told a lawyers' conference in the southern city of Eilat.

Israel was capable of sending rescue teams thousands of miles to the Caribbean, but had failed to retrieve a soldier in imprisoned just a few miles from its borders, Shalit said.

Gilad Shalit has been in Hamas captivity since he was snatched in a cross-border raid launched from the Gaza Strip in 2006. The last sign of life that Hamas has given of the soldier was a video clip in September, in which Shalit addressed his family and held up a copy of a newspaper to prove the date of flming.

Israel has conducted extensive negotiations with Hamas over a proposed swap deal but has so far been unwilling to meet the group's demands to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

In the past, senior government members, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have warned Noam Shalit that a high-profile media campaign for Gilad could weaken Israel's position in talks for an exchange.

On Sunday the soldier's father rejected those claims.

"We will not accept the cliché that our actions are upsetting negotiations to free Gilad and we will not accept this wheeler-dealing over the life of our son," he said.

Earlier this week, pro-Palestinian activists attempting to sail to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade rebuffed Shalit's offer to intercede with the government on their behalf if they would deliver a package to his son.

"Gilad is crying loudly for us to return him to freedom," Shalit said on Sunday. "He has paid in full the price that the state demanded of him."