White House: Gilad Shalit Release 'Long Overdue'

Press secretary says President Obama has repeatedly called for Shalit's release; White House to focus on bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

White House officials say they are pleased by the report that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held for five years by Hamas, is to be freed.

Press secretary Jay Carney called the release "long overdue." He said President Barack Obama has called many times for Shalit's release.

White House - AP - October 12, 2011

"We are pleased by the reports that Mr. Shalit will be home soon with his family," he said. "The president, as you know, has called many times for his release, and that his release is long overdue.

Speaking during Wednesday's White House press briefing, Carney did not comment on the details of Shalit's release, which is to be accomplished via a prisoner swap that will allow 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some convicted of murder, to go free. That has sparked concerns about violence.

Carney said the White House focus is on getting the Palestinians and Israelis to return to direct peace talks.

Earlier on Wednesday, Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to comment on the Shalit deal, telling reporters that "you need to talk to the parties involved. We are not prepared to speak about it."

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement Wednesday, saying it was "elated with the prospect of the release of Gilad Shalit, on whose behalf the Conference and its member organizations have worked since the day he was illegally kidnapped more than five years ago."

"The Talmud," read the statement, "says that saving one life is as if you redeemed the world. We pray that this one precious life is now indeed saved, and the prospect of Gilad’s reunion with his family, after being held all this time incommunicado without even visits from the Red Cross or communications with his family adds joy worldwide to the Sukkot holiday that begins this evening.”