(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For every Israeli soldier kidnapped by the enemy, Israel should hold 200 of their fighters, Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, former coordinator on the issue of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action, said in recordings aired on Army Radio on Monday.
“If the enemy is holding one of our soldiers, a war should end with Israel holding 200 of theirs.
If it’s two then we should hold 400, if it’s three of ours then it should be 600 of theirs,” Lotan, who resigned last week after three years in the position, is heard saying in recordings taped several months ago.
“It doesn’t mean that the problem will be solved but the formula will be different,” Lotan added, arguing that the policy would provide Israel with a “kidnap bank” that will serve as a bargaining chip.
The goal, he says, would be to deter terrorist groups against holding Israelis captive.
Israel routinely holds the bodies of Palestinians, both Hamas terrorists and assailants shot dead while carrying out attacks during the two-year wave of violence in the West Bank and Israel. In December of last year Israel’s security cabinet decided that Israel will withhold the bodies of Palestinian terrorists killed in attacks against Israeli citizens.
“The security cabinet discussed ways to effect the return of fallen soldiers and of civilians held in the Gaza Strip... and decided that [the bodies of terrorists] should be buried, rather than returned,” a statement released at the time said.
Under the policy, the bodies would be buried in Israel and could be exhumed and handed back if Hamas was willing to strike deals with Israel.
Hamas is believed to be holding the bodies of missing IDF soldiers Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul who were killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as well as two other Israeli citizens who voluntarily crossed into the Strip.
Last September Lotan revealed that Israel offered to return the remains of 19 Hamas fighters, including one who took part in the attack in which Goldin was kidnapped, plus another 18 Palestinian terrorists taken into custody during Operation Protective Edge in exchange for the bodies of Goldin and Shaul. Hamas declined the deal.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman stated that Israel will not repeat the “mistake” of freeing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for any Israeli citizen held in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, dead or alive.
Liberman added that before replacing Lotan it was important to “draw clear lines for the State of Israel and its emissaries and to especially stand firm against our enemies and make it clear to them that we have no intention of compromising on the security of the people of Israel.”
In addition to Goldin and Shaul, two other Israelis, Abera Mengistu, an Ethiopian- Israeli, and Hisham al-Sayed, a Beduin, are both believed to be held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Mengistu and Sayed suffer from psychiatric disorders and both crossed into the Gaza Strip voluntarily and have been missing for three years.
The cases of Mengistu and Sayed are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul, but Israel has made it clear that they hold the group responsible for the safety of both.
The terrorist organization has attempted to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases.