In a special press conference which followed a day of intense briefings over the status of negotiations for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed that the current demands submitted by Hamas would not be accepted so long as he remains premier. “The government’s ministers heard an expanded and detailed report from Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] head Yuval Diskin and Ofer Dekel, my personal envoy on the matter of prisoner exchanges,” Olmert began. “They chose not to hold a discussion due to the sensitivity of the issue. All government ministers accepted the position of the envoys; namely, that the demands of Hamas as they stand do not allow us to go on with the deal.””The government of Israel, so long as I stand at its head, will not agree to the dictates [of Hamas] as they were presented,” he continued. “Israel agreed to generous and far-reaching compromises. I approved these compromises, which meant releasing dozens of prisoners, some of them murderers.”
“These offers were exhausted. Others will not be made. We will not agree to release prisoners other than the hundreds we already agreed to,” the prime minister said.
“In the last few years I was asked multiple times: Why are you willing to undermine your vital strategic assets for the fate of one person? I was asked this question by our most steadfast allies, countries close to us in their culture and norms of life; [countries whose] leaders genuinely want the best for Israel,” Olmert recounted. “I always answered that the Jewish people carry different memories from other lands, a life with scars and wounds that [these countries] never experienced, never had to bear.
“We came to this country to live in security, so that we don’t need to fight and no one will fight us, so that we don’t get hurt and don’t need to hurt our neighbors … because at the end of the day, the value that unites Israeli society more than any other is mutual reliance: the recognition that whoever saves one soul in Israel it is as if he has saved an entire world. This guided our actions in our attempt to bring Gilad back home, so far unsuccessfully. But we will not stop making efforts and we will talk to whoever we can,” Olmert said.
Noam Schalit, father of captured IDF soldier Gilad, declined to comment on what his next move would be after listening to Olmert’s comments on the matter tonight.
The soldier’s father commented that he had met with Olmert earlier in the day, and said that he still hoped the current government, in its final days, would be able to “return Gilad, finish the matter, pressure Hamas, and come to an agreement.”
He said that the government “knows what to do and how to do it,” adding “it’s a shame that it’s being done only after a thousand days of [Gilad] being in captivity.”