NEW YORK, Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC Executive Director David Harris, welcoming the return of Gilad Shalit to Israel, issued the following statement:
"Gilad Shalit's arrival home is long-awaited news for his devoted family, for the Israeli people, and for countless others around the world who never gave up hope for his safe return from Gaza, where Hamas had held him incommunicado for more than five years.
"The decision by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, supported by the bulk of his Cabinet, that secured his return was one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions ever faced by a political leader.
"On one side of the scale was the life of a young Israeli man, held in unimaginably harsh conditions and deprived even of visits by the International Red Cross. On the other side were convicted terrorists with plenty of blood on their hands. They have already killed hundreds of Israelis, and now will not only escape the remainder of their sentences, but could, as Hamas leaders proudly proclaim, return to their lethal activities.
"Israel made a decision of extraordinary nobility, choosing to risk future dangers at the hands of an implacable enemy to save one human life today. Jewish tradition teaches that 'He who saves one life has saved the world.'
"Only time will tell what the outcome of exchanging Shalit for over 1,000 convicted prisoners will be, but this action taken by the government of Israel speaks to the highest values embodied by the Jewish State. Although the coming days will inevitably witness grotesque celebrations, as murderers return to joyous mobs in the West Bank and Gaza, we will also witness scenes of a relieved Israeli public that would not rest until their son, Gilad Shalit -- and he was viewed as the collective son of Israeli society -- was freed. The juxtaposition of these respective images will speak volumes.
"The critical roles of the German and Egyptian governments in securing an agreement between Hamas and Israel to obtain Shalit's safe return should be acknowledged. We join with Prime Minister Netanyahu in extending our heartfelt appreciation.
"The saga began in 2006, when terrorists entered Israel from Gaza via a tunnel and seized the 19-year-old, forcing him across the border into Hamas-controlled Gaza."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee