ehud goldwasser .
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The families of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev demanded direct negotiations with Hizbullah and a prisoner exchange during a private meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday. They had requested the meeting to protest Olmert's decision to lift the air and sea blockade on Lebanon.
"I believe in direct negotiations," Shlomo Goldwasser said during a press conference in Tel Aviv after the meeting. "To my great sorrow, in this case my son and Eldad Regev are the sacrifices, but it could have been anyone's children."
"Hizbullah are like criminals. You have to deal with them like criminals. In other places in the world, in situations such as these, you negotiate with criminals. We told him [Olmert] to do everything and not to take any options off the table," Goldwasser said.
He was sitting in front of a banner that read "We do not abandon soldiers in the field" and pictures of his son Ehud, Eldad Regev and Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas outside the Gaza Strip on June 25.
He said they had demanded Olmert arrange a prisoner exchange to free their sons.
Benny Regev, brother of Eldad, said Olmert had promised them he would do everything he could to bring the soldiers home. Goldwasser added that the prime minister had pointed out that the closure was not being lifted, but IDF troops were being replaced by international forces.
However, Regev said they were "very disappointed that our soldiers are coming home but our sons are not. This is the second time that Israel has acted against its best interests."
The Goldwassers also appealed to the members of the United Nations Security Council and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday to do all in their power to determine the physical condition of their sons and help bring them home after 56 days in captivity.
"I am directing this statement especially to the 15 nations who are part of the UN Security Council to make sure UN Resolution 1701 is fulfilled by both sides.
This is a humanitarian matter. Any nation is exposed to any kind of terrorism, especially fundamentalism. This is not only Israel's war, but everyone's. Tomorrow, it will not be in your backyard but in your front yard. I hope the free world will recognize this and press for the release of our sons," he said.
Malka Goldwasser also demanded action from both Olmert and Annan to return her son Ehud as well as Eldad, both of whom were kidnapped by Hizbullah during a cross-border raid on July 12, the day Ehud was supposed to come home from reserve duty.
"I am not willing to compromise... I demand action, not talk," she declared. "I think there is a responsibility on the part of countries which have sent troops to stand between our soldiers and our border. There is a possibility of future kidnappings," she added.
Malka Goldwasser also conveyed a direct plea to Annan for action.
"I was talking to him face to face, looking into his eyes, and I saw his sincerity in his eyes when he promised to help return my son. I am still waiting for him to fulfill his promise," she stated.
Despite the Goldwassers' appeals to the international community, Shlomo told The Jerusalem Post that "the prime minister is the decider in this case" and that the responsibility lay with him to bring the men back. He added that Olmert had invited them to meet with him again whenever they felt like it, but he said they probably wouldn't meet with him unless there were significant developments.
Yaakov Ne'eman, long active on behalf of those missing in action, had some pointed remarks for the government and the international community.
"If we do not do everything we can to free them both, we are abandoning our sons. I call on Israel to do everything it can - including options which I will not go into now but which are possible - immediately, and I stress immediately, to return our sons.
"The world must know if the soldiers are not released it will break the peace of the world. It's a mistake to continue with the UN resolution without fulfilling the preamble [which calls for the release of Regev and Goldwasser].
"One does not need to be a politician to know who the backers of Hizbullah are," he added, "and the world is facing a tremendous problem because of that."
The families have pledged to increase their efforts on behalf of their sons. Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud's wife, is in the United States attempting to arrange meetings with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US President George W. Bush to discuss her husband's plight.
On Sunday, the families are scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair to demand that he do his utmost to determine the status of the two and bring them home.