Israeli fury at Shalit kidnap remarks


THE FATHER of an Israeli soldier held in captivity for more than five years by Hamas has said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.

Noam Shalit, who said earlier this year that he would be standing for the opposition Labour in the next Israeli elections, has provoked outrage among the Israeli right with the comments. His son, Gilad, was released in a prisoner swap in October 2011.

Mr Shalit said the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants was comparable to the techniques used by Israeli paramilitary fighters, the Haganah, against the British, arguing: “We also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom.”

Mr Shalit, speaking to a TV interviewer in the kitchen of his family home, a familiar backdrop from the family’s five-year campaign for their son’s release, was subject to repeated questioning attempting to pin him down on his political policies.

The former engineer eventually summarised his key campaign issues as “mutual responsibility and not leaving soldiers behind or any Israeli who is in any trouble”. He also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Hamas, something the Israeli government, along with Britain and the US, refuses to do.

“I am in favour of speaking to anyone who wants to talk to us,” he said. When asked whether he would negotiate with a Hamas government headed by his son’s kidnapper, he said: “If they change their ways and are willing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, yes, I would shake his hand.”

While acknowledging Binyamin Netanyahu’s role in securing his son’s release, he criticised the Israeli prime minister for not acting more swiftly. Mr Shalit suggested economic sanctions should have been imposed on the Gaza Strip.

“As soon as they capture an Israeli soldier and are not willing to release him and asking for such a price, you should put the pressure on them including stopping the transfer of money,” he said.

An official from Mr Netanyahu’s office pointed to Mr Shalit’s recent emergence as an opposition candidate, recommending that “his comments should be taken in that context”. – (Guardian service)