Shalit's father to enter Israeli politics

AFP , Monday 9 Jan 2012

Father of Gilad Shalit, Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for five years, announces plans to run for election on Labour Party ticket

Noam Shalit, whose soldier son Gilad was held captive in Gaza for over five years, announced Monday that he would run for election with the Labour Parry in Israel's next polls, the party leader's website has reported.

"After years of a public struggle, during which I became deeply acquainted with Israeli society, its beauty and values, I have decided to join public activity," he wrote in a statement published on Shelly Yachimovich's website.

Shalit, who Yachimovich said had been a member of Labour since 1996, gained public awareness during a long battle seeking the release of his son, who was captured by Gaza-based Palestinian militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.

The soldier was released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange that saw Israel free 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

Yachimovich welcomed Shalit's decision, writing on her website that "Noam Shalit and his family's struggle to free Gilad began as a private struggle, but became a campaign bearing the core values of Israeli society – solidarity, mutual responsibility and Zionism."

Shalit's announcement comes a day after popular television presenter Yair Lapid announced his entry into politics, with polls predicting a breakthrough for a party he plans to set up and lead in elections.

The moves by Lapid and Shalit fuelled speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to move up Israel's general election, currently scheduled for late 2013.

Ironically, Netanyahu's rise in popularity following the deal that secured Shalit's release is believed to be a main factor influencing his potential decision to advance the election to mid-2012, a move he has yet to announce.

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