Sunday, June 27, 2010

Israeli protesters press Binyamin Netanyahu to help free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.

Pressure is being brought on Netanyahu's government to take action to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier taken prisoner before the start of the Israel Lebanon war.

Thousands of Israelis are expected to join a 12-day march across the country beginning today to put pressure on their government to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, the soldier abducted by Hamas four years ago.

The Shalit family and their supporters will set out from their home in Mitzpe Hila, Galilee, and take a winding route through Israel to Jerusalem. They hope to be joined by artists, musicians, rabbis, activists and "tens of thousands" of ordinary people. On arrival in Jerusalem, Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, plans to establish a protest tent outside the home of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, where he has pledged to remain until his son is freed.

"We don't see any alternative after four years of government failure to obtain the release of my son," Shalit told the Observer. "There have been many, many failures, but now it's time to put public pressure on the government."

The Shalits yesterday released a video urging Netanyahu to "pay the price" necessary for Gilad's release. In a direct appeal, Noam Shalit says: "Enough talk. Now is the time for decisions." Asked if "the price" – the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners – was too high for one soldier, he said: "The price is not our business to deal with."

It was widely presumed at the time Shalit was captured that the Israelis - as they have done so often in the past - would come to a deal in order to obtain the release of this young Israeli. But Olmert, for reasons I could not at the time understand, decided instead to throw Israel into a war in Lebanon, encouraged every step of the way by the Bush administration.

It led to an Israeli loss to Hizbullah, and did nothing to ensure Gilad's release.

Now Israelis of all political hues are supporting the government doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that Shalit is released.

An opinion poll published on Friday showed that almost 75% of Israelis support the release of Palestinian prisoners serving sentences for militant attacks in return for Shalit's freedom.

His fate has huge resonance in Israel, where military service is a requirement. Most families can identify closely with the Shalits' loss.

This could all have been done four years ago. But Olmert, goaded on by Bush, decided it was preferable to reduce Beirut to ruins.

Which is why we find ourselves here four long years later.
The Israeli media is backing the renewed Shalit family campaign, with most newspapers urging the government to strike a deal over his release.
How many lives would have been saved had Olmert done a deal over this four years ago, rather than embrace the insane neo-con logic pushed by Bush and Cheney, that Israel should expand it's raid on Lebanon and move into Syria or Iran?

As I said at the time, the release of Gilad Shalit got placed on the back-burner at the behest of Bush who was more interested in Olmert goading Syria and Iran than in securing the release of one young Israli soldier. His capture was ostensibly the reason for the Israel/Lebanon war, but he was quickly forgotten as once the war started.

Now Shalit's family are demanding that Netanyahu do what Olmert did not, and ensure that he is returned to his parents unharmed.

This should have been done four years ago.

Click here for full article.

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