Father Blames US for Blocking Shalit Deal
Noam Shalit says White House urging Israel to forgo prisoner swap.
During a speech on Thursday, Noam Shalit, father of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, blamed the United States for interfering with Israel’s attempts at negotiating a prisoner exchange for his son.
"Unfortunately we have received sentiments from the U.S. government that express discomfort with the prisoner swap deal,” he said.
The remarks were made to Jewish leadership gathered at the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv.
The elder Shalit lashed out at the Obama Administration for conveying its disapproval of such a deal to Israel and implying that the plan should be put on hold. He highlighted the fact that simultaneous to the White House’s criticism, certain members of Congress were advising President Obama to pressure Israel to open the Gaza crossings.
The Obama Administration has been "dropping hints to the Israeli decision makers not to accept such a prisoner swap as it might harm Abbas's political position and stability in the Palestinian Authority," said Shalit.
He implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to muster all the strength he has in order to approve a deal that would bring Gilad home. He reminded those assembled that his son has been held by Hamas for four years.
"We need to bring Gilad back home without delay," Shalit said.
He noted that his son is being held in complete isolation from the outside world, against international law and basic human rights. He condemned Hamas for not even allowing the Red Cross to visit Gilad.
He furthermore criticised the Gaza blockade, stating that the strategy merely targets Gaza residents without hurting the Hamas leadership. He added that those in top ranks of Hamas are “holding their people hostage” and care little for the welfare of Palestinians.
"They enjoy funds being sent to them from various sources and have easy access to food," he said.
Shalit also blamed internal power battles within Hamas for delaying the implementation of a final deal.
“They have refused to approve a deal which has been drafted through hard work of the German negotiating team, and to free their own people."
Shalit stressed that the German negotiators had spent two months working with both sides on an agreement.
"The Israeli government approved the deal, which was in turn passed to Hamas for approval," Shalit said. "This was the first time in over three and a half years that a serious and extensive offer for a prisoner's swap was drafted and taken to Hamas for approval."
Earlier in the week, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported that negotiations between Israel and Hamas with German mediator Gerhard Conrad are scheduled to resume in the near future. Conrad is due back in the Middle East by the end of February.