Noam Shalit: Hamas Dominates Talks to Secure Gilad's Release

Father of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit responds to remark by Defense Minister Barak concerning mistakes Israel had made in talks to release his son, says the only one paying the price for those mistakes is Gilad.

Israel has allowed Hamas to call the shots in negotiations geared at securing Gilad Shalit's release, the abducted IDF soldier's father told Haaretz on Thursday, adding that his son was suffering the consequences of mistakes made throughout the years by senior Israeli officials.

Noam Shalit's remarks to Haaretz came in response to comments made by Israeli officials recently concerning Israel's inability to sign a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas.

Gilad Shalit cardboard figures
Tess Scheflan

Speaking of Israel’s failure to secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, despite having offered to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Haaretz on earlier Thursday that he felt Shalit could have been freed three years ago.

In response to Barak's comments, Noam Shalit said that the defense minister had referred to the fact that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his emissary to Shalit talks Ofer Dekel asked Hamas to compose a list of prisoners they would like to see freed, instead of providing the militant group with a list of possible prisoners, out of which Hamas officials would choose the 450 prisoners they wanted released.

"That strategic error has enabled Hamas throughout the years to lead negotiations and has forced the Israeli side to be led, chasing Hamas' tail," Noam Shalit said, adding that Olmert's move enabled "Hamas to demand a list of prisoners, many of whom are chief [Hamas] prisoners and commanders."

Shalit also spoke of what he characterized as an inclination by Israeli officials to admit to mistakes in their dealings with Hamas, saying of Barak's comments that "today again one of the most important decisions makers of recent years admits to a strategic mistake in the talks to secure our son's release, most likely not the only mistake at that."

"Mistakes that have caused the price Hamas demanding and is demanding for Gilad's release to be, as some argue, high, and as others, impossible," Shalit said, also speaking of outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin's statements as to his sense of personal failure in the matter.

"Unfortunately, senior officials and decision makers continue to release statements concerning mistakes that had been made in the past, but the only one that is bearing the burden of their errors on his slight back, and who is rotting away in terrible solitude in the darkness of his Gaza prison, is our son Gilad," he said.

Noam Shalit also said that the admissions as to the mistakes done during talks to secure his son's release prove what he has claimed from the affair's onset, that negotiations were failingly conducted.

Shalit's father called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach the appropriate conclusions and pay the necessary price to free Gilad, saying: "Later, if necessary, the State of Israel could take care of those freed terrorists or prisoners."