The Almagor terror victims organization expressed outrage on Thursday over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Gilad Shalit.
“There is no cause for celebration,” the organization’s chairman, Meir Indor, said. “Each meeting and public event which celebrates the Shalit deal raises the price of the next kidnapping and triggers and encourages Hamas to kidnap more Israelis.”
Indor added, “Hamas is looking at the pictures of Netanyahu with Shalit, sees how he is gathering ratings with the pictures and interviews and says to itself that if it’s so important to politicians, then the kidnapping should continue. Israel will pay the price the next time as well.”
Gilad Shalit met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in the first encounter between the two since the day Shalit was released after more than five years of captivity as a hostage in Gaza.
Meeting in Tel Aviv with the prime minister and David Midan—a former intelligence official who represented the government in the prisoner exchange negotiations—Shalit and his parents thanked them both for their efforts in securing his release.
“I’m very happy to meet you,” said Shalit, who looked markedly healthier than on his release five months ago, smiled frequently, but also seemed a little awkward. “In the end, you were able to get me out,” he said to Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 News reported that the IDF is setting up a “special team” to better grapple with situations such as the Shalit kidnapping, based on information Shalit has provided during his ongoing debriefings about his time in captivity. Shalit was “sharp-eyed” and “astute,” and has been able to provide more information than had been expected, the report said.
Shalit’s family gave Netanyahu a coffee table book about the Hula Valley, a popular resting place for migratory birds. In a handwritten note to the prime minister, Shalit compared his feelings of freedom to those of birds in their natural habitat.
Netanyahu said that this year, Passover, the holiday of liberty, held a special significance for Gilad.
“The holiday celebrates our exodus from Egypt and you experienced an actual exodus from Gaza,” said Netanyahu.
Gilad Shalit and his parents with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Thursday (photo credit: GPO)
The prime minister congratulated Shalit on the visible restoration of his health; Shalit responded that with the passage of time he was becoming more active and had gained 6 kilograms (13.2 lbs) since his release. He also said he looking forward to being honorably discharged from the IDF soon.
Netanyahu said that the window of opportunity to close the deal on Shalit’s release had been very brief and that it was uncertain whether the deal would have gone through under the emerging regime in Egypt.
He added that his wife Sara had constantly encouraged him to take action on Shalit’s behalf and to do everything he could “to free the poor boy from his dark captivity.”
The Almagor Terror Victims Association strongly condemned the publicity surrounding the meeting as inappropriate, offensive to terror victims’ families, and encouraging to further kidnap attempts. In a statement, the organization said that every celebration of Shalit’s release would raise the price of releasing the next hostage.
“Hamas also sees these pictures of Netanyahu and Shalit and how the prime minister is trying to get ratings from pictures and interviews about the release,” said Meir Indor, a director of Almagor. “They say so themselves, if this is so important to [Israel’s] statesmen, then we should conduct kidnappings. Not only that, but the pictures remind terror victims’ families of the price that they have paid.”
Since being released in October last year, Shalit has met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Israel’s only player in the National Basketball Association, Omri Casspi.
Following a call from several self-described human rights organizations for Israel to consider releasing many Palestinian Authority (PA) terrorists, the Almagor organization for victims of terrorism has issued its own call demanding that the government keep terrorists in prison.
The government must “keep its promise to terror victims and to the Israeli public that it would send terrorists released in the Shalit deal back to prison immediately if they returned to terrorism,” said Almagor head Meir Indor.
Several PA terrorists in Israeli prisons are hunger striking in an attempt to force the Prison Service to release them. Among them are some who were re-arrested in recent weeks after being released in exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Among the most prominent is Hana Shalbi, an Islamic Jihad terrorist from the village of Burkin near Jenin. Shalbi was arrested recently based on “completely certain” intelligence that she had assisted in planning a terrorist attack that was to involve kidnapping an IDF soldier. She had been released in the Shalit deal just months earlier.
“Human rights” groups including the PA organizations Al-Haq and Addameer (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) and the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights – Israel have called for Shalbi to be transferred immediately from prison to a hospital, and for the world to pressure Israel to stop using administrative detention. Administrative detention allows the IDF to arrest terror suspects immediately, and to gather sufficient evidence for trial afterward.
“Hana Shalbi planned to kidnap soldiers in order to free her friends who are still in jail,” said Indor. “The state must not give in to organizations for which kidnapping soldiers is a minor detail, while the matter of a terrorist freed in an extortion deal is far more lofty.”