JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit, but it will not "pay any price," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a live address to the nation.
The address Thursday comes on the fifth day of a cross-country march by the captured Israeli soldier’s family and supporters that has attracted thousands of people. The march will end next week in Jerusalem, where Shalit’s parents have vowed to camp out across from the prime minister’s official residence until their son is released.
"The German mediator’s offer which we agreed to accept called for the release of 1,000 terrorists. This is the price I am prepared to pay to bring Gilad home," Netanyahu said. "I said yes to the deal and it is ready for immediate implementation. But there are prices that I am not prepared to pay and they are not included in this difficult deal."
Netanyahu said he would not be willing to return dangerous terrorists to the West Bank, nor is he willing to release what he termed "top terrorists," worried that they would commit more terror acts after their release.
Shalit’s father, Noam, said after the speech that Netanyahu was recycling the words of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Also, he said, "The prime minister drew horrifying scenarios from 25 years ago and from six years ago about terrorists who were released and then murdered Israelis, as if nothing had changed since then, as if Israel had no security services."
Hamas gunmen abducted Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid in June 2006. The International Red Cross has not been allowed access to Shalit in his four years of captivity.