CBNNews.com - TEL AVIV, Israel - Foreign Minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni's remarks on the fate of captured IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Cpl. Gilad Shalit drew sharp public criticism.
"We cannot always bring all of them [our soldiers] home," Livni told a group of high school students in Tel Aviv, as the nation marked Shalit's 900th day as a prisoner of Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
"The thought that I can free Gilad and am not doing it is a horrible thought," Livni said. "We all want Gilad to come back home, but part of the willingness to fight is the understanding that we don't have any other choice," the foreign minister said.
"There is always a risk of casualties, and it's not always possible to bring everyone back home," she told the students.
Livni's remarks mirrored those of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who told leaders of American Jewish organizations last February that he was not optimistic about Shalit's release.
The left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz called Livni's remarks "distinctly problematic."
"There is a big difference between the reality that fighting can result in casualties and the government's abandonment of a live soldier in captivity," Haaretz stated.
Yoel Marshak, chairman of Headquarters for the Release of Gilad Shalit, was incensed by the foreign minister's remarks.
"As a leader, Tzipi Livni should do absolutely everything to find out what's happening with Gilad Shalit," Marshak told YNet news.
"We teach our sons to go to the army and volunteer to become officers and tell them we will do everything to ensure they come home. It's unacceptable that we don't even know what's happening with Gilad Shalit," Marshak said.
"It's true that not everyone comes home. I myself have fought in battles and seen my friends fall. We know where it is that we send our sons because our country is not safe, but what does that have to do with anything?" he asked.
At the same meeting, Livni hinted that Israeli Arabs would be better off living in a future Palestinian state.
"My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic State of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and clear red lines," the Kadima party candidate for prime minister said.
"And among other things, I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, 'your national solution lies elsewhere," Livni said.
Arab Israeli parliamentarian Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List - Ta'al) demanded that Livni clarify her position.
"She must decide whether she means to leave a million Arabs without political rights or a national identity or whether she really intends to transfer a million Arab citizens to a [future] Palestinian state that will be established," he said.
Meanwhile, on Friday morning, Livni told Israelis demonstrating outside her Tel Aviv home that she would not retract her previous day's remarks.
"The foreign minister refused to take back her words that we can't bring everyone back home," Guy Eliasaf, spokesman for the movement working for Shalit's release, told YNet news.
"We told her that such a statement is inconceivable and that's why we're outside [her home] so all of Israel will know that Tzipi Livni said such an irresponsible statement, which can harm the motivation of soldiers and the morals that guide the State of Israel," Eliasaf said.
Another group demonstrated outside of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Jerusalem residence at the same time, calling on him to work toward Shalit's release.
Sources: Haaretz, YNet news, The Jerusalem Post