Anat Shalev
October 19, 2008 - 8:00pm,7340,L-3611061,00.html

Dozens assembled outside the home of Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday afternoon to stage a unique demonstration for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The protestors placed a large cage at the forefront of the rally and packed themselves inside in an effort to illustrate the conditions of Shalit's captivity. The event marked 848 says since he was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip.

Barak drew the ire of the Headquarters of the Public's Campaign for the Hostages' Release in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday in which he alluded that the extent of the public outcry on Shalit's behalf may end up hindering the negotiations for his release.

"We have to think about these demonstrations, we must find a way that does not end up sending messages to the other side that only make the price tag (for Shalit's release) go up rather than down," Barak said in regards to Sunday's rally near Kerem Shalom.

"As for the demonstration itself, I understand these people. As an IDF chief of staff and as someone who served for decades as a commander, I have an acute sense of the responsibility to bring Gilad home. It's something that keeps me awake night after night. There is not a day that goes by without my dealing with this matter."

Shai Shenkman, a member of the Friends of Gilad organization, said the defense minister's comments spurred the group into action.

"Barak's shameful statement propelled us spontaneously into organizing this demonstration. This is the picture we want the defense minister to take in, the cage, for him to see how a captive soldier feels. What he said was outrageous – if the public's protests won't help, then what will?"

Shenkman added that "the public wants to see Gilad home. Everyone, regardless of their sector. This isn't just a private aspiration of the Shalit family, this is a national and public struggle, and one we refuse to give up on until Gilad comes back. We want to see things being done, we want to see results, and all of Barak's various reiterations don't change anything."

Gilad's father, Noam Shalit, responded angrily to Barak's criticism. "The government had almost two and a half years to bring Gilad back without demonstrations and without protests, but failed to do so," Shalit told Ynet on his way to a rally at the Kerem Shalom crossing, where his son was kidnapped in June 2006.

Shalit said the protests are born out of the frustration Israelis feel over the failed negotiations for his son's release. He added that the family was uninvolved in initiating the demonstrations. "They are organized by people from all walks of society who have had enough.

Shalit went on to slam the ongoing transfer of goods and funds into the Gaza Strip. "In Gaza everything is fine. Israel is transferring plenty of premium quality goods. They want for nothing in Gaza today, but Hamas just keeps toughening its stance," he said.


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