Gary Ackerman (D-NY):
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.
Howard Berman (D-CA):
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.
Steve Cohen (D-TN):
I am so pleased Corporal Gilad Shalit is being released. I am happy for him, his family and all the people of Israel.
On my recent trip to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, I spent a great deal of time imploring Egyptian leaders to use their influence to urge Hamas to free Corporal Shalit from his lengthy captivity. Peace in the Middle East is indeed possible. It is my hope that freeing Gilad Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners will help invigorate the Middle East peace process and hopefully bring long sought goodwill to the negotiating table.
It is important that Israel and Palestine work together with sincerity and mutual understanding as they negotiate a lasting peace that will bring safety and security to the region. This prisoner exchange will provide Israel and Palestine with the impetus they need to form the lasting peace they and the world have been craving for so long.
Charlie Dent (R-PA):
The release of Israeli Army Sergeant Gilad Shalit, though long overdue, is welcomed news in Israel and the United States. Five years of separation from his family and friends, and what has undoubtedly been a painful disruption of his young life, have finally come to an end. I am extremely happy Gilad has been reunited with his loved ones and once again has the ability to live an enjoyable and productive life.
While we celebrate the release of this young soldier, we must remember that his negotiated return coincides with the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including many members of Hamas connected to attacks against the nation of Israel – a stark reminder that the Israeli people remain under the constant threat of terrorism. I am optimistic today’s agreement, under which both the Israeli and Palestinian people can feel their interests were met, will facilitate better cooperation among the two parties and inspire greater hope that peace in the region can ultimately be achieved.
Ted Deutch (D-FL):
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.
Janice Hahn (D-CA):
I am pleased that Gilad Shalit has been released. I wish him all the best as he is reunited with his family.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD):
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.
Ed Markey (D-MA):
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.
Caroline McCarthy (D-NY):
Today, I join friends of Israel across the globe in expressing gratitude and relief for the safe return of Sergeant Gilad Shalit.
Since Gilad’s capture, I have supported legislation condemning his imprisonment and formally calling for his immediate release. Make no mistake, I have concerns about the deal that was brokered – the Palestinians should honor this act of good will on Israel’s part by pursuing a path of nonviolence and cooperation in the future. Anything less would be a betrayal of the trust and sacrifice that Israel and its victims of terrorism have offered as the bedrock of this deal.
Above all else, the efforts by the Israeli government, and the extent of its negotiations with Egypt and Turkey, are a testament to the commitment and value the country places on its citizens – one of many values the United States shares with its strongest ally in the Middle East.
Claire McCaskill (D-MO):
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.
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
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.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):
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.
In recent years, I have met and spoken with Gilad's father, Noam, on a number of occasions, learning about the struggle to bring his son home. When I traveled to Israel, I met with the Shalit family and loved ones of other missing soldiers. To them, to our friends in Israel, to the Israeli Knesset and to leaders throughout the Middle East - Arab and Israeli alike - I showed Gilad's symbolic dog tags, always displayed in my office, symbols of our unending hopes for his survival and safe return.
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.
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL):
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.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL):
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.