The father of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit said he is looking to President Barack Obama in his efforts to win his son’s release from Hamas kidnappers in the Gaza Strip.
“He is proactive in the Middle East,” Noam Shalit said here Monday. “He is more of a major player in the Middle East [than President George W. Bush] and I believe he will become more and more” involved there.
Asked if that had given him any reason to be more optimistic about his son’s release after nearly three years in captivity, Shalit replied: “Not yet. I can’t afford to be optimistic until we see more developments.”
Shalit arrived in the United States Sunday with his wife, Aviva, to march in the
Salute to Israel Parade and to remind people of their son’s kidnapping in a cross-border raid June 25, 2006.
“It was very impressive,” Shalit said of the parade and the response he received from onlookers. “We don’t have any problem with the large support we receive from Jewish communities all over the world.”
Since his son’s kidnapping, Shalit’s abductors released only one audiotape of Shalit and, last June, an undated letter from him.
“In it he’s just begging for his release and freedom,” Shalit’s father said of the note. “They did not allow him to provide any details” of his captivity.
In addition, Noam Shalit said, his son’s captors have refused to permit the International Red Cross or any other outside organization to see him.
Asked about the breakdown in talks while Ehud Olmert was prime minister earlier this year, Shalit said Olmert was “not so determined to conclude this issue” and simply wanted for the last three years to “postpone this issue” until his successor took office.
Before returning home Monday night, Noam Shalit said he was asking the American Jewish community to “use its influence and put some pressure on the administration” to get it to address his son’s plight.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday appointed a former senior Mossad official, Haggai Hadas, 56, to handle future negotiations to secure Shalit’s release. He succeeds Ofer Dekel, who resigned last month after failing to negotiate a prisoner swap for Shalit using Egyptian officials as mediators with Hamas.
Shalit said he had not met Hadas nor spoken with him.
“I hope he will give the negotiations a new push,” he said.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Monday that Egyptian sources believed that once negotiations for Shalit’s release are resumed, Hamas would insist that they picked up where they left off.
“Otherwise,” the sources said, “there is no real point to talks; Hamas will refuse.”
The talks hit an impasse after Hamas demanded the release of 450 prisoners from Israeli prisons and Israel agreed to the release of only 325 of them. Israel claimed it would not release the others because of the nature of their crimes.