Gilad Shalit’s father sparks row over kidnap commentsBy
Noam Shalit, whose son was held in captivity by Hamas, says he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were Palestinian
The father of an Israeli soldier held in captivity for more than five years by Hamas has said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.
Noam Shalit, who announced earlier this year that he would be standing for the opposition Labour party in the next Israeli elections, has provoked outrage among the Israeli right with the comments. His son, Gilad, was released in a prisoner swap in October 2011.
Shalit added that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants was comparable to the techniques used by Israeli paramilitary fighters the Haganah against the British, arguing “we also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom”.
Speaking to a television interviewer in the kitchen of the Shalit family home, a familiar backdrop for the Israeli public from the family’s five-year campaign for their son’s release, Shalit was subject to repeated questioning attempting to pin him down on his political policies.
The former engineer eventually summarised his key campaign issues as “mutual responsibility. And not leaving soldiers behind or any Israeli who is in any trouble.” He also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Hamas if he were an MP, something the Israeli government, along with Britain and the US, refuses to do.
“I am in favour of speaking to anyone who wants to talk to us,” he said. When asked whether he would negotiate with a Hamas government headed by his son’s kidnapper, he maintained: “If they change their ways and are willing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, yes, I would shake his hand.”
While acknowledging Binyamin Netanyahu’s role in securing his son’s release, he criticised the Israeli prime minister for not acting more swiftly. Shalit suggested economic sanctions should have been imposed on the Gaza Strip. “As soon as they capture an Israeli soldier and are not willing to release him and asking for such a price, you should put the pressure on them including stopping the transfer of money,” he said.
Shalit went on to dismiss as “pathetic” the counter-argument that Netanyahu had “brought Gilad home”, a decision that carried a significant political risk given the necessary release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.
“Netanyahu saw that more than 70%, sometimes 80%, of the public wanted the deal [to release Gilad] and he realised the public would not accept another Ron Arad [missing Israeli pilot captured in Lebanon],” Shalit said.
An official from within the Israeli prime minister’s office refused to give an official response to Shalit’s comments but pointed to his recent emergence as a candidate for the opposition, recommending “his comments should be taken in that context”.
from Phoebe Greenwood