The Obama Administration, alongside several Democratic Representatives and Senators, celebrated kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s release from 5 years and 4 months in Hamas captivity.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that “we are pleased that a long ordeal… has ended for Gilad Shalit,” and that he was held captive for “far too long.”
House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was moved by the occasion, noting:
For more than five years, the Congress of the United States has called for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Today, after painstaking negotiations, he has returned home - to freedom, his family, and his future.
For the Shalit family - indeed, for all of the citizens of Israel, for all who have worked and longed for Gilad’s release - this day is a cause for hope; yet it is also a reminder of our need for resolve…
Now that he is home, we share in the joy and relief of the Shalit family. We are grateful to all who fought, negotiated, marched, and advocated for his release. We continue to pray for the return of all captured Israeli soldiers and for a future of peace and security for the people and state of Israel. At this time in the Jewish calendar, there is, perhaps, no better way to celebrate a time of happiness, thanks, sweetness, and joy than the return of Gilad Shalit.
Democratic National Committee Chair and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said in a statement:
Throughout the time of his captivity, I have joined my colleagues in calling for the immediate and safe release of Israeli Defense Forces Corporal Gilad Shalit. For more than five years, we shared in the Shalit family’s ongoing pain. Today, we finally share in their joy and relief as Gilad returns home. For all Israelis this nightmare has been a profoundly personal, national trauma. As a mother, it fills my heart to know that Gilad is now home, reunited with his parents and surrounded by the love of his family, and friends, and all citizens of Israel.
It is fitting that Gilad returned home during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a time to give thanksgiving for the abundance we receive in life. I am thankful for Gilad’s safe return, and hope his release provides us with the optimism that he showed when he said, ‘I hope this deal will promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.’
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) tweeted, “Happy to see pictures of #Gilad Shalit reunited with his family.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said last week that “we are pleased that Gilad Shalit has been reunited with his family. We have long called for his release, and it was far too long in coming” - referring to the numerous times President Barack Obama called for the immediate release of Shalit.
For over five years, the family of Gilad Shalit and the people of Israel have waited anxiously for word that he is coming home. Today, after what has surely been a horrific and terrifying ordeal for Gilad and his loved ones, the wait is finally over.
I had the opportunity to join the Shalit family in Israel several years ago on a day that happened to be Gilad’s birthday. It was an emotional experience, and we were joined as well by families whose two sons were being held by Hezbollah - two sons who, tragically, did not come home alive. All of us who have spent time in Israel and who have stood in support of Israel and its people know how dearly each life is held and how sacred the duty of redeeming captives is considered. Today’s news brings added joy during a season of hope for the new year. It is my hope that those who were released to secure his return will use this opportunity to embrace peace and refrain from engaging in acts of terrorism. I continue to pray for Israel’s security and success, and I join with Israelis and with those in Jewish communities throughout the United States celebrating Gilad’s homecoming this morning.
Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said:
I’m relieved that Gilad Shalit is home safely, and I share the delight of his family, friends, and community. For years Americans have stood with our Israeli friends in their quest for Gilad’s safe release, and today our calls have been answered. It is with tremendous elation that we see Gilad reunited today with his family and homeland.
The Israeli government had to make serious sacrifices to bring this national nightmare to an end, and I have nothing but contempt for the crimes committed by the released Palestinian prisoners. In releasing a disproportionate number of terrorists to secure the return of Gilad, the Israelis have demonstrated to the world the value they put on human life. Let’s pray that the Hamas terrorist organization uses this opportunity to end its reign of violence against the State of Israel.
Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and a leading advocate for Shalit, said before Shalit’s release:
I want to express my solidarity and pride in the State of Israel for this effort to redeem from captivity one of its brave sons. ... Gilad Shalit should never have been kidnapped, he should never have been held captive, and he needs to be returned to his family without delay.
Today, I join with Israelis and friends around the world in celebrating the return of Gilad Shalit. Shalit’s release, after five long years in captivity, is a cause for great joy and hope for the future.
Human beings should never be used as bargaining chips. We share in the Shalit’s joy and relief at the safe return of their son.
In his first interview today, Shalit said, ‘I hope this deal helps achieve peace between both sides, Israel and the Palestinians.’
We must work to turn his hope into reality by redoubling efforts to help Israel and the Palestinians negotiate a two-state solution that provides long-term security and stability in the region.
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said upon hearing the news of the deal to release Shalit:
I am overjoyed to hear that Sgt. Gilad Shalit may soon be free and reunited with his family. This momentous news comes after five years of darkness, during which Gilad has been kept in illegal captivity and his captors provided almost no information on his condition or whereabouts, in violation of their obligation, through international law, to allow access to the Red Cross and other neutral parties. Gilad’s kidnapping and imprisonment by Hamas are deeply symbolic of the legal and moral vacuum that currently exists in Gaza. The possibility that he could soon be safe at home comes as a tremendous comfort to the many of us around the world who have held out hope and awaited his release.
Today, the safe return of Sergeant Gilad Shalit brings joy and gratitude to millions of people in Israel, the United States, and around the world. For Sergeant Shalit and his family, today marks the end of five long years of unimaginable suffering. Their strength and perseverance throughout this ordeal reminds us all to never give up hope even in the darkest of circumstances. For the past 1,941 days, synagogues, community organizations, and student groups throughout South Florida have pressed for Gilad Shalit’s safe return home. I am so proud of their efforts and celebrate this moment with them.
Today is a day of celebration for Gilad Shalit, his family and for all the people of Israel. After 5 years of unjust imprisonment, Gilad Shalit finally is at home with his loved ones thanks to the unrelenting efforts of his family, government negotiators, and friends and supporters. But there are many more captured Israeli soldiers who still remain held in inhumane conditions, and our resolve must remain steadfast until they are all released.
I was in Israel this spring to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. I hope that the release of Gilad Shalit will spark a new phase of negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians to bring a peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflict that has caused so much sorrow and violence for both peoples. Let the determination of Gilad Shalit, his family and supporters rekindle hope for a positive, peaceful future for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples - two countries living side by side in peace and security.
It has been five long years. And yet, Gilad did not give up. He has demonstrated an unwavering and determined will, provided inspiration, and garnered support from the world. I am humbled by his courage and share this joyous occasion with Gilad’s parents who never gave up hope that one day they would see their son again.
As we celebrate Sergeant Shalit’s freedom, we must do so with a heavy heart. Throughout the past five years, Hamas, in direct violation of international human rights law, refused to allow Gilad any contact with his family, and further refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to have access to him. I pray that this indefensible act by Hamas never happens again….
I stand firmly in solidarity with Gilad Shalit, his family, and the people of Israel in support of human rights and call for an end to Hamas’s war crime tactics of holding soldiers hostage in order to compel the Israeli government to accede to their demands.
As a mother, I couldn’t be happier for Gilad Shalit and his family. This day has been too long in coming, and it’s certainly a reason to celebrate.
I am pleased that Gilad Shalit has been released. I wish him all the best as he is reunited with his family.
The National Jewish Democratic Council joins these leaders in welcoming Shalit back home.
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