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Ovadia Yosef blesses the Schalits

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Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef spoke of his support for a prisoner swap to release captive tank gunner Gilad Schalit, when he met with the young man’s parents in Jerusalem on Monday morning.

Yosef’s office did not comment on the meeting. A spokesman for Shas and its chairman Eli Yishai told The Jerusalem Post that the party has long supported a prisoner deal.

Although Yishai was present at the meeting, he did not elaborate on the conversation.

Shimshon Liebman, who heads the campaign to free Schalit, said that he was present at the Jerusalem meeting along with Schalit’s parents, Aviva and Noam.

"He [Yosef] had many warm blessings for the family and for the release of Gilad,” Liebman said. He added that Noam explained to Yosef that his son had been held by Hamas in Gaza for more than five years and that his life was in danger.

All options to free his son have been exhausted, Noam told the rabbi according to Liebman, and the only option that remains is a deal to exchange Palestinian security prisoners for Gilad.

Hamas in the past has demanded the release of 1,000 security prisoners for Gilad.

Liebman told the Post that the rabbi spoke in favor of a prisoner release and of the need for Shas, including Yishai, to pressure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make such a deal.

He added that it was his understanding that Yishai planned to continue to advocate with Netanyahu on Gilad’s behalf.

“We hope that Shas will push the the prime minister to make a deal with Hamas, which is Gilad’s only option,” Liebman said.

“What is needed here is courageous leadership,” he said.

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