Leah Goldin: Tell me what the government is doing to bring our boys home

"They've been telling me what they won't do for five years, but they don't tell me what they are doing."

By
July 24, 2019 18:26
Leah Goldin, mother of missing soldier Hadar Goldin, at a Jerusalem press confrence July 5, 2018

Leah Goldin, mother of missing soldier Hadar Goldin, at a Jerusalem press confrence July 5, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government have been saying for five years what they won't do to bring back the four Israelis who are being held in Gaza, but won't say what they will do, Leah Goldin said in an interview with Asaf Liberman on KAN Reshet Bet Radio on Wednesday.

Responding to a question about why she thinks the government doesn't want to act, Goldin said, "I don't want to think about what they don't want and why they don't want it. I'm all the time thinking why they aren't doing [something]? I don't know why they're not doing something." 
"They've been telling me what they won't do for five years, but they don't tell me what they are doing," she added.


Goldin described the kidnapping of her son, Hadar Goldin, as an "embodiment and realization of Hamas's goals."  She stressed that the whole issue didn't just rise up yesterday. It's been going on for the past five years. It just returned to the news now because yesterday there was a commemoration ceremony for the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.


Liberman brought up a speech made yesterday by a spokesperson for Hamas's military wing, who said that there's now an opportunity to solve the issue of the Israelis being held in Gaza, if Israel is ready to "pay the price," stressing that there won't be another opportunity, and telling the families to learn from the case of Ron Arad, according to the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar news agency.


The Hamas spokesperson also claimed that the government has not brought up Avera Mengistu at all in ongoing negotiations with the group, and continues to procrastinate and cause the public and the families to suffer.


"Every year, for the past five years, we've received manipulations from Hamas," responded Goldin, pointing out a video the terrorist group made in the first year after the operation attempting to show that the kidnapping of Hadar happened two hours after a ceasefire ended to try and clear themselves of any blame of having broken a ceasefire. 


"That Hamas tries to manipulate us is OK. It's bad, but it's OK. It's our enemy. But the fact that we enter into the thought process of Hamas and that our leaders speak the language of Hamas – and act according to the values of Hamas – says something," she stressed.


Goldin added that during the fighting, the state designated Hadar and Oron Shaul as fallen soldiers. "This never happened before. No MIA IDF soldier has ever been designated as a fallen soldier," said Goldin. "They told us there's no chance he's alive and they designated him as fallen soldier." 


She pointed out that after five years, "questions come up." The Shaul family doesn't accept the evaluation by the government saying that Oron was killed, because it's a forensic evaluation. 


"It's not real," said Goldin. "What is real are the forces that are holding our sons, our soldiers. All the surrounding things they say don't interest me. It doesn't interest me and it doesn't need to interest anyone. The question is what our forces tell us and what they do in order to protect our soldiers."


When Liberman asked Goldin whether she believed Hadar had been killed or was still alive, Goldin responded, "I'm a second generation descendant from the Holocaust. I was taught to look forward, not backwards. How will looking backwards help me?"


During the interview, Goldin said that the families have already "brought the tools to the table," pointing out UN resolution 2474 which was passed on June 11, which says that as soon as there are agreements made between two parties in conflict, the first thing that needs to be done is returning the dead and missing.


"Netanyahu needs to tell the UN representative to discuss the missing soldiers first in negotiations," said Goldin. "All the aid going into the Gaza Strip is good and fine, but first return the soldiers because this is the law. You can't break the law."


Liberman asked Goldin if she didn't trust the government to return the four Israelis in the Gaza Strip. "After five years, I've finished trusting," she answered.


Last week, the families of Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed were invited to a meeting with Netanyahu. 


During the meeting, the families were invited to attend a discussion on the missing Israelis at the UN in New York. Goldin stressed that they had already gone to the UN and gotten a resolution passed. She left the meeting last week in tears.


"Even after this meeting, it's not clear to us why Netanyahu doesn't make the return of the boys a condition in all the talks for rehabilitating and upgrading Gaza that are happening every day,” Goldin said at the time. “We don't need a trip to New York and what you proposed, we already did that ourselves two years ago and with great success."


"It's interesting why you suddenly remembered us now, after five years when you did nothing,” said Goldin last week. "The meeting today and Netanyahu's proposals to act in the international arena were intended primarily to silence the disappointment of the families just before the commemoration of five years since Operation Protective Edge." 


On Tuesday, Yaron Blum, the government coordinator on the issue of returning captured Israelis and those missing in action, spoke with Esti Peretz Ben-Ami on KAN Reshet Bet about the four Israelis being held in Gaza.


Ben-Ami asked Blum if he thought the meeting between Netanyahu and the families last week was a good idea, as the families were expecting to hear some kind of news and instead were just invited to some discussion at the UN.


"People don't understand how much the prime minister is involved in returning the missing," responded Blum. "The intention behind the meeting was good. It was an initiative of the United States to hold a discussion at the UN on the missing Israelis." 


Blum stressed that he and Netanyahu, along with government officials from the Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel security agency) and IDF, are in contact with all the families. "We haven't cut them off." 


The government coordinator added that a lot of operative action is involved in returning the four Israelis in Gaza and stressed that his office also works to return missing Israelis not just from Gaza, but from other countries as well.


Ben-Ami asked Blum if there is a difference between dead soldiers and living civilians in terms of efforts to return them to Israel.


"No, there's no difference between civilians and soldiers," stressed Blum, adding that there has been both diplomatic and operative activities to work on returning them. "There has been progress. We've gotten indications on the status of the civilians in Gaza. I don't want to say more than that." 


Blum confirmed later in the interview that the civilians are still alive.


"There's a difference between what Hamas convinces themselves and the public and what we're actually doing," he said. 


Blum emphasized that this case can not be compared to the case of Gilad Shalit for which 1,027 prisoners were released in a prisoner exchange deal. "This isn't the Shalit period and this is not a case of a living soldier." 


"Everyone should ask themselves: Are they prepared to return 450 murderers tomorrow?" said Blum. "With Shalit, 450 of those released were murderers with blood on their hands. Will this be paid again? I expect not." 


He added that Hamas's demands for payments that even get near what happened with Shalit, show that the terrorist movement "lives in la-la land."


The negotiations with Hamas are occurring through mediators, not directly, explained Blum. "Hamas is a terror organization and we don't talk directly with them." 


"Hamas should understand that there won't be a substantial deal with Gaza until the citizens and soldiers are returned," said Blum. Concerning Qatari money that has been brought into the Gaza Strip, he emphasized that the cash is kept track of and that Israel makes sure it gets to the right people.


"Hamas is dragging things along," said Blum. "They need to understand the commitment of me and my team to do everything possible to return the missing Israelis." 


He stressed that the issue of the missing Israelis comes up in every cabinet meeting and the reason they haven't succeeded is because Hamas isn't ready to negotiate. Blum added that multiple countries including Egypt are involved in the negotiations. The countries working to bring back the missing besides for Egypt couldn't be mentioned by name, said Blum.


The army holds that Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed during Operation Protective Edge in a Hamas attack on August 1, 2014, when he was 23 years old. It similarly holds that St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, then 20, was killed on July 20 that year, when an armored personnel carrier he was traveling in was hit.


Separately, two Israeli men, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, believed to be suffering from mental disabilities, crossed into Gaza after the war. It’s believed that they are alive but held captive.


Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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