'March Delays Shalit's Freedom'

Israel's willingness to pay “any price” for captive soldiers got Gilad Shalit kidnapped and keeps him hostage, says General (res.) Elazar Stern.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 11:11 PM

March for Shalit
March for Shalit
Israel news photo: Flash 90
The willingness to cave in to terrorist demands in order to return kidnapped soldiers is what has kept Gilad Shalit captive for so long, General (res.) Elazar Stern said Sunday in an interview with Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service.

In fact, if Israel had stood firm in the past, Shalit might not have been kidnapped in the first place, he stated. “If in previous years we didn't get hysterical in the face of pressure from mothers – and I'll avoid saying anything more harsh than that – then Gilad would be with us today. Either he never would have been kidnapped, or he would have been freed already,” Stern said.

Those who are marching this week for Shalit are playing into the hands of people with an agenda, he said. “Most of those who are marching with the Shalit family are doing so because they identify with the family's pain,” he said. “The problem is that the organizers of the march create the impression that it's not about empathizing with the family's pain, but rather, about calling on the government to pay 'any price.'”

Supporters of Shalit's release “at any price” may argue that Israel's willingness to pay dearly for its soldiers' freedom is a good thing, but “I don't buy the explanation that we're different from other nations [in this regard],” he said. “The opposite, in fact – we could learn from the strength other nations demonstrate, both those that refuse to negotiate with terrorists and those that refuse to pay a price like that demanded of us or that which we are willing to pay.”

Stern voiced his agreement with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who warned that releasing “arch-terrorists” responsible for many murders would lead to increased terrorism. “With all the pain of the last four years [of Shalit's captivity]... The Shalit family has hope... and on the other hand we have what the prime minister said, what we know, that the light will be permanently extinguished in dozens of homes [if arch-terrorists are released].”

While he issued warnings to Shalit activists, Stern also gave hope. “I believe that Gilad will come home,” he declared.