The march in support of Gilad Shalit. Photo posted by Anat Zelichover on Flickr.

A march in solidarity with Gilad Shalit, organized by the captive soldier’s family, arrived last night at its destination: the home of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Our Observers on the ground take the pulse of public opinion.

If the case of Gilad Shalit continues to enflame the passions of the Israeli public, their views are divided over the way in which the negotiations are proceeding. They wonder about both the number and identities of the 1000 Palestinian prisoners that Israel says it will free in exchange for the young soldier, who has been detained in Gaza by Hamas for four years.

“Gilad Shalit is a ‘double hostage’: of Hamas and of the Israeli government”

Joel Schalit is an Israeli columnist. He currently lives in Berlin.

I think that Gilad Shalit represents Israeli society quite accurately. He is a young soldier who finds himself a double victim: in the first instance, as a hostage of Hamas, and in the second, a hostage of the Israeli government. He is just a pawn in the political game of the Israeli government. They are not prepared to liberate a thousand prisoners in exchange for one soldier. If this exchange takes place and the country finds itself a target for terrorist attacks, the government will pay dearly. Many Israelis think that the politicians are creating this furore just to calm public opinion and give the impression that they are going to free Shalit, even though it is a smokescreen for doing nothing. That is the purpose of this march and this whole movement, to push the government into keeping its promises."

“The question is not if the exchange will take place, but when”

Simon Katin is an IT programmer in Tel Aviv.

Everyone here is concerned about the Gilad Shalit case, no matter what their political standpoint is. We are all in agreement that we must save the soldier, but we do not all agree on the terms. Personally, I don’t think that the number of prisoners is the important question, but the nature of the prisoners and whether they could pose a risk to the security of our country.

The question is not whether the exchange will take place, but when. For my part, I think that the solution is clear: we know that we have the means to kill the terrorists in Gaza through precise targeting. It is imperative that the future liberated prisoners know that if they are been in an Israeli prison once, they won’t go back in a second time."

“Our government shouldn’t go so far in the negotiations”

Sacha Dratwa is a new media student in Tel Aviv.

The Gilad Shalit case is still the only thing that impassions all Israelis. It is no longer just a fight to liberate a soldier; it has become a political battle, surrounding Benjamin Netanyahu. That is the game that Hamas want us to play, with all its twists, to weaken the Israeli government. In fact, people are turning against their government and it is due to the manipulation of Hamas.

I think that what has been put on the negotiating table is beyond belief. To exchange one prisoner for one thousand has never been seen before, and for me that represents an abandonment of our modern, democratic values. Here in Israel, we have all done three years of military service, we have taken risks and battled every day against terrorists. There are tens of thousands of us who believe that the government should not be bending over backwards, but unfortunately, our voice is not being heard in the media. Instead, they support the Gilad Shalit lobby which is prepared to make so many concessions to liberate the soldier."