Leah Goldin, mother of Hadar, speaks at a press conference, August 5, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The emerging Gaza-Israel deal does not include the explicit return of Israelis being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas. Contradictory reports in recent days have shown that the government is not clear on this issue and that the return of Lt. Hadar Goldin, St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed is still uncertain.
It must be made clear: There can be no peace until all Israelis have been brought home. The families have waited four years, they must not wait any longer.
On Saturday, the Goldin family said that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot had told them last week that the government could secure the release of their son’s body. But this would require drastic measures and sanctions on Gaza.
Instead, a deal is being worked out that appears to give concessions to Hamas in return for an end to 32 weeks of riots.
“From the tough meeting, we concluded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to return the soldiers of Israel,” the Goldin family statement said. Shaul and Goldin were both killed during the 2014 war and the terrorists in Gaza have held their bodies, demanding Israel release prisoners in exchange for them.
Instead of a concrete provision in the deal, it appears that the deal only includes more assurances that Egypt will “try” to work out a prisoner deal. The family pointed out that a previous deal with Turkey also involved Ankara “trying” to do something and nothing ever happened.
This is a charade that involves the enemy in Gaza receiving concessions in exchange for Israel getting some peace and quiet on the border, but the families remain with nothing.
The Mengistu family recently commemorated 1,500 days since their son Avera crossed into Gaza in 2014 and was held by Hamas. Ilan, Avera’s brother, wrote in October that his brother has been held without treatment in Gaza for years.
“With a broken heart, we are demanding that the government and the international community do everything in their power to bring Avera back home so that the tragic count of missing days can come to an end,” Mengistu said.
Mengistu crossed into Gaza under circumstances that have never been fully explained, as those guarding the border appeared to allow him to walk along the beach into the strip. He had gone through a mental crisis, his family said in October, and had been in psychiatric hospitals. They desperately want their son home and yet, they have received no answers.
The sons of Shaul and Goldin went to defend the border against Hamas attacks in 2014. The young men gave their last full measure in defense of the state and an agreement without their return is wrong.
It is part of Hamas’s cruel game to hold bodies and those of innocent civilians to trade. At every turn Hamas holds the keys, always ready to fire rockets or use snipers or tunnels whenever it pleases, without any real fear of deterrence.
It has learned this entire year that it can always push Israel up to a certain red line and then walk back and do the same again.
And in Jerusalem, the government provides Hamas the assurances, through infighting and public statements, that Israel does not want a war.
Hamas reads our media and knows, one more round and then it can walk back and say, “Now let’s do a deal,” and then it can prepare for the next round.
A long-term agreement with Hamas, with the involvement of Egypt, Gulf Arab states and other parties interested in calming the situation, should certainly be applauded and the intended goal.
There have been many unconfirmed reports about what such a deal would look like, including the reopening of border crossings, expanding fishing zones and allowing Palestinians from Gaza to work in Israel.
But as Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said recently, “A deal that does not bring back our sons is not a deal.”
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