'Swap Shalit for the killers of our sons'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

Parents of slain IDF soldiers have called upon the Israeli government to release their sons’ killers in return for the freedom of Gilad Shalit.

As Aviva and Noam Shalit launched a “last hour” campaign for the freedom of their son last Sunday, many relatives of IDF members whose killers could be freed in return for Gilad’s release came out to support them.

The bereaved parents made media appearences on the Shalits’ behalf and visited the couple’s campaign tent, pitched next to the official residence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in central Jerusalem. Next week it will be a thousand days since the Israeli soldier was taken captive in Gaza.

The Shalits are concerned that the new Israeli Government, expected to be sworn in on Wednesday, will not be prepared to make major concessions in a future prisoner exchange.

On Sunday they called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to secure Gilad’s release before he leaves office. “The family still sees the present Prime Minister and his Government as responsible for returning Gilad before the end of their term,” repeated Mr Shalit in numerous media interviews. “Gilad was captured on the present Government’s watch,” he said. “They have to get him back.”

While a prisoner deal seemed imminent only a few weeks ago, talks have become bogged down due to Hamas’s insistence on the release of the entire list of 450 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. It includes a large number of terrorists sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering Israeli civilians and soldiers. Mr Olmert has objected to releasing the entire list.

Hundreds streamed to the Shalits’ tent, calling upon the Government to “do everything” to secure Gilad’s release. At the same time, an opposing group of protestors, whose family members were murdered by terrorists, set up a tent demanding that the Government does not give in to Hamas.

Among the bereaved relatives who came out in support of the Shalits were the parents of Nachshon Wachsman, an IDF soldier who was captured and murdered in 1994. They said that they are prepared for their son’s murderers to be released if that could secure Gilad’s freedom.

Mr Olmert’s special emissary, Ofer Dekel, is currently in Cairo for a last round of talks with the Egyptian government, which has been trying to broker a deal with Hamas.

Government sources have said that there is little chance that such a deal will be reached before Mr Olmert leaves office.

Last updated: 5:14pm, July 6 2010