Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.
(photo credit: REUTERS,Courtesy)
The family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body was taken by Hamas after he was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2014, slammed the government on Sunday over what it says is a failure to engage in any serious negotiations to retrieve his body, or that of St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose corpse Hamas also took.
“Unfortunately, the prime minister waved a white flag at Hamas and gave up on bringing Hadar and Oron home. The Israeli government is demonstrating terrible weakness in regards to Hamas,” the Goldin family said.
The family was speaking ahead of the security cabinet meeting on Sunday, during which it was decided that the bodies of Hamas terrorists killed during attacks will be buried and not returned to Hamas.
The cabinet met to discuss efforts to retrieve the bodies of the two IDF soldiers, held by Hamas since Operation Protective Edge.
This was the first security cabinet meeting held on efforts to retrieve the bodies of Goldin and Shaul, as well as bring about the return of the two Israelis, Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza and are being held there.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the cabinet discussed ways to win the release of the bodies and the two missing men, and unanimously adopted an action plan. The details of that plan were not disclosed.
The cases of Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israel, and Sayed, a Beduin Israeli, both suffering from psychiatric disorders and both who crossed into the Gaza Strip voluntarily, are viewed by Israel as a humanitarian issue unrelated to the cases of Goldin and Shaul. Hamas has denied keeping Mengistu hostage, but Israel has made it clear that it holds the group responsible for the safety of both Mengistu and Sayed.
Over the weekend, Hamas’s armed wing released videos of a mock birthday party for Shaul, whose birthday was on December 27.
In the video, a figure purporting to be Shaul is seen in a dark room with a cake bearing three candles, as “Happy Birthday to you” is sung in Hebrew with a thick Arab accent.
A figure, who turns out to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a clown costume, emerges from the dark to blow out the candles, as the text “Decision is in the government’s hands” appears.
Speaking on Radio Galey Israel on Sunday, Leah Goldin, the mother of Hadar, said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met with the family only once, about a month after he assumed his role on May 30, but he told them that he could not tell them anything.
“That was the response from the defense minister who promised [to tell Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh he had 48 hours to return the bodies or be assassinated.”
According to the families, while the bodies of Shaul and Goldin remain in the hands of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, “Netanyahu releases bodies of terrorists, while Hamas prisoners receive deluxe conditions and the government pays the salaries of Hamas terrorists.
“The state is allowing the massive entry of goods into Gaza that no government has done in the past. While the state is creating water desalination factories in Gaza, the State of Israel doesn’t even demand to receive information about Hadar and Oron and isn’t conducting negotiations for their return,” they added.
Leah Goldin said the families met with Netanyahu several times until he breached the families’ trust six months ago. The prime minister promised them that returning the bodies of the Goldin and Shaul would be a precondition to any deal regarding humanitarian aid to Gaza, she said.
“Apparently business in Gaza is more important to him than returning the soldiers,” she added.
“It is our moral duty as a people and the duty of the IDF to bring our soldiers back from the battlefield,” Leah Goldin said.