Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff, added chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to his list of hats three months ago.
Mofaz has the broadest security and political credentials of anyone to hold the position to date. However, after the relative placidity of predecessor Tzachi Hanegbi’s tenure – Hanegbi was careful not to clash with the cabinet – Mofaz doesn’t hesitate to sharply criticize government defense policy or to present an alternative.
Two weeks ago, Mofaz stalled a Defense Ministry request for an additional allocation of NIS 700 million, demanding explanations.
Speaking with Haaretz, he warns that further delay in a deal for Gilad Shalit could seal the captured soldier a fate similar to Ron Arad’s.
He blames the prime minister and defense minister for stalling the peace process, hastening the next military conflict, which he says will be far more painful. He also thinks regional changes require peace agreements with the Palestinians and Syrians.
Nonetheless, it appeared this week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is adopting Mofaz’s plan for an interim deal.
In light of the upheaval in the Arab world, you have expressed concern in various forums about the fate of Gilad Shalit.
“In fact because reality is changing so much, it is impossible to know now how it will look a year from now. Therefore I believe that Gilad must be brought home. In my eyes, this is a national mission. There is an opportunity here to bring him back. The government needs to set a time frame, at the end of which if there is no alternative, it enters negotiations with Hamas, which is holding Shalit, and brings him home.
“As time passes the price raises and Shalit’s situation could – heaven forefend – be approaching Ron Arad’s. We cannot allow ourselves that. We know he is alive, that he is in the Gaza Strip.
That’s how things were with Ron Arad, but after a few years the connection with him was lost. I know this is a difficult decision. But inability to make a decision on this matter, for five years, is a tragedy in my eyes.
“Israel knows it has a son in Hamas captivity and isn’t acting. I do not accept the phrase ‘at any price’ because there is a price and it must be bargained for. But in the end it must be agreed to and Gilad returned. It impacts civilian confidence in that such a move presents a government that can make decisions. It also strikes the most sensitive chord for soldiers. My statement is very unequivocal. Our DNA doesn’t allow us to give up on our sons.
The day the state gives up one of its sons, the sons will give up on it. That is not a populist statement. That is a moral and ethical stance.”
Response to terror
And what about the argument that freeing terrorists with blood on their hands will engender a wave of attacks?
“Israel knows how to deal with the worst terrorists. If there are concerns that those freed will join the active terror circuit, I argue Israel must have a response to that, as it has a response to other terrorists. The claim that a deal would encourage more abductions is also not convincing.”