Gilad Shalit’s Imprisonment 5 Years Later

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Five years on, Shalit’s imprisonment an open wound for Israel

Source: JTA, 6-26-11

Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sits beneath a banner depicting his son and Ron Arad, the missing-but-assumed-dead Israeli airman, in a protest tent near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, June 2, 2011. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Michal Naamani traveled to Jerusalem from her home near Kfar Saba to hand out yellow ribbons to passers-by and bumper stickers to motorists reading “Gilad is alive.”

Naamani, a high school teacher, felt that she wanted to do something to help captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“I’m a mother. I have a younger brother doing reserve duty,” Naamani told JTA on Friday, the day before the ifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a raid on the Gaza-Israel border that left two other soldiers dead. “I’m here because if it was my son, I would want someone to support me as well.”

Shalit’s family members have done practically everything they can think of to keep Gilad in the public eye.

Last year they marked the anniversary of his capture by marching from their home in northern Israel to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelis joining them for part of the way. This year Gilad’s older brother, Yoel, disrupted Israel’s state ceremony on Israeli Independence Day.

“We say to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, you have no mandate to sentence Gilad to death,” Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said during a news conference Sunday morning outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, where the family announced a new campaign to garner more tangible public support for striking a deal to bring home Shalit.

Shalit family members chained themselves together outside the residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night, as hundreds of supporters gathered in support. Others protested outside Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea.

Meanwhile, dozens of Israeli celebrities and politicians marked 24 hours beginning Saturday night at Herzliya Studios, Israel’s largest TV facility, with each spending an hour in “solitary confinement” in solidarity with the captured soldier.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, announced that his government had accepted a German-mediated deal to free Shalit.

“This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people. As of now, we have yet to receive Hamas’s official answer to the German mediator’s proposal.”

Netanyahu did not specify the terms of the proposal, but said that “The State of Israel is ready to go far, more than any other country, in order to secure Gilad’s release but it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of those who are sitting here, to see to the security and lives of the Israeli people.”

Five years on and without a clear sign that a prisoner-exchange deal with Hamas is in the offing or even that their son is still alive, the Shalits have become a symbol of what Israelis — whose children are subject to mandatory military service — fear most….READ MORE

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